To me it feels like Michelle Lovric’s children’s books are getting better and better. I really, really liked The Fate in the Box, which is set in the same fantasy Venice as her previous books, but a little earlier.
It’s 1783 and a child is about to be sacrificed. As prologues go, this was a good one. In only a few short pages you get to know and like – love, even – Amneris, and you can just feel that something momentous is going to happen. But you can’t guess what.
The ghastly Irishman Fogfinger has taken over Venice and everyone is scared. Automata do everything for the rich, while the poor get poorer. And hungrier. There is much going on that people don’t understand, but Amneris and her friends Tockle and Biri end up being thrown in at the deep end, in more ways than one.
They are brave and friendly and resourceful, like any good fictional heroes should be. They even befriend the rather dreadful Latenia, who is rich and spoilt, and too fat to be sacrificed.
And what about the crocodile that reputedly eats children? Or the strange goings-on in the families of Tockle and Amneris? Talking – and flying – cats seems quite a normal thing, once you get used to this version of Venice. Its statues are not always as stony as they appear.
Things get worse before they can get better. There is an underground movement against Fogfinger, but what can they do?
This is just so exciting! And the clever Michelle adds lots of real natural history as well as facts about Venice to her fantasy plot, so there is a risk that the reader gets a worthwhile education.
Go on! Take that risk!