Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Belladonna by Fiona Paul

Belladonna by Fiona Paul
Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose, Book #2
Published: July 16th, 2013
Publisher: Philomel
352 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young adult historic fiction/paranormal
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Book Depository || Chapters/Indigo}
{Read my review of Venom}
In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancĂ©, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time? Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

Venom was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2012, and I couldn’t wait to dive into it the moment I had my hands on that gorgeous book. Sadly, it didn’t come close to living up to my expectations. Despite that, I was eager to read Belladonna and see if things improved. While I didn’t love Belladonna, I think I enjoyed it more than Venom and I was pleased to see it didn’t suffer the dreaded second book syndrome.

In Venom, Cass launched head first into danger without thinking things through. She was impetuous and foolish and constantly put herself in danger. Horrible things were happening in Venice, and could have easily happened to her but she completely disregarded that so she could spend time with Falco. In Belladonna, I expected maybe Cass had learned something and would be a bit more cautious, but she wasn’t. This was something I alternately loved and hated about her. I liked that she was a strong, independent, determined girl, but I also wished she would have used her head more and thought through things before going blindly into danger.

This series has an odd sort of love triangle. In the first book, we saw a lot of Falco and not much of Luca. In this book, we didn’t actually see much of either boy. Luca was imprisoned through most of the book, and we didn’t even see Falco until several chapters in. Cass spent a lot of time thinking about both boys, and I liked that she mostly stayed focused on her mission, which was to find a way to get Luca out of prison. I waffled in the first book as to who I liked better and who I wanted Cass to end up with, but now I know for sure I prefer Luca. I realized in Belladonna that I don’t actually really like Falco all that much. In fact, he’s kind of a douchebag, and I will be sincerely pissed off if Cass chooses him in the final book. I’m sure there are a few things that happened that aren’t what they appeared to be, but even if that’s the case, I think Cass deserves someone who will treat her better than Falco does.

An interesting and unexpected twist in Belladonna was the turn it took toward the paranormal. Even though it was completely random, I actually liked it and thought it worked. It reminded me a lot of the books I’ve read on witch hunts, but people were being wrongly accused of being vampires, and were killed. I really liked the way it was tied into the story and its association with the Order of the Eternal Rose.

One thing I mentioned in my review of Venom that’s true for Belladonna too is that it doesn’t feel like historic fiction. I love historic fiction that immerses you in the time with its language and customs and scenery. Venice and Florence are settings we don’t often see in books, and there was so much potential to make it rich in historic detail, but it fell short. As with Venom, I often forgot I was even reading historic fiction.

There were also some issues with the pacing. While there were some genuinely exciting, action-filled scenes that had me turning the pages quickly, there were also a lot of parts that dragged. There was often too much focus on the little things - traveling from Venice to Florence, or Cass’s time at Belladonna’s, or her time spent searching (literally) for answers. The last part of the book, however, was action-packed. I felt myself getting more invested in the story and the characters.

With more action, mystery, and intrigue than the first book, Belladonna is a solid middle book in a trilogy that has so much potential. The ending was a great set up for the next book - there are still so many things that could happen and so many different ways things could play out. Some questions were answered, but there are still plenty of questions and a lot of mystery surrounding the Order of the Eternal Rose and Cass’s family ties to it. 


I LOVE the original covers for Venom and Belladonna - they're absolutely gorgeous. Ditto for the Australian/New Zealand covers. The remade covers, however...meh. They look like adult romance novels, especially the one for Belladonna. The only thing I like about them is the way the title is done; the script is really pretty and I love how the name of the series is wound along the first letter of the title. I own a copy of the original Venom and the inside is stunning - one of the most beautifully designed books I've ever seen - so I worried when I got Belladonna with the new cover that it wouldn't be as nice as the original Venom, but it had the same gorgeous designs inside.

What do you think of the covers? Do you prefer the originals or the remade ones?

Have you read Venom or Belladonna? What did you think? Do you enjoy historic fiction?

1 comment:

  1. I like the original Venom cover and I love the Aus / NZ covers the most. The new ones are just kinda meh to me. They don't impress me at all or draw me in. Pity.


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