Publisher's Note:  

Teodora has always longed to visit Venice, and at last she has her chance. But strange and sinister things are afoot in the beautiful floating city. Teo is quickly subsumed into a secret world in which salty-tongued mermaids run subversive printing presses, ghosts good and bad patrol the streets, statues speak, rats read, and librarians fluidly turn into cats. And where a book, The Key to the Secret City, leads Teo straight into the heart of the danger that threatens to destroy the city to which she feels she belongs. An ancient proverb seems to unite Teo with a Venetian boy, Renzo, and with the Traitor who has returned from the dark past to wreak revenge. . . . But who is the Undrowned Child destined to save Venice?

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Delacorte Books

The Undrowned Child

by Michelle Lovric

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Overall Review:  

What a lovely, exciting and thorough story!  By the time I finished this book, I felt like it could be possible for me to walk through Venice and name every building I saw!  I loved the history; I loved the descriptions; I loved the fast pace and the excitement and the mystery!  I even loved the fact that after the story was finished, there was an entire section on what was true in the story (people and events) and a section about the buildings and places mentioned!  Some wonderful, and very eye-opening facts on Venice!

The characters are so much fun!  Teo is a wonderfully flawed little girl—she’s normal, yet just a little bit different than everyone else.  She can see everyone’s words above their heads, and feel their hearts!  Renzo is a snot.  He’s snobby and looks down on everyone (unless you’re a Venetian). He does improve, though, and you can’t help but like the guy!  I LOVED the mermaids!  They were so funny and full of life!  They are referred to as ‘salty’, and salty they are!  They’re not afraid to tell you what’s on their minds and they’ll do it in way that makes you laugh…even though you know they’re probably insulting you!  There’s also the other side to the war over Venice: the villains!  And they are scary!  Bajamonte Tiepolo is the infamous traitor (true story!!) whose spirit has come back to life (not true!!) and he is pure evil as he strives to gather his army, find his bones, resurrect his body, and take all of Venice for his own!  The Butcher Biasio is as evil as they come—slaughtering children and serving them in stew (true story!!!!)—and he’s back as well (not true—thank goodness!) as Tiepolo’s vile head henchman! 

The Undrowned Child is an intense tale of good versus evil with many elements of Inkheart, Neverending Story, and even Harry Potter throughout.  The writing is lovely, lyrical, and perhaps one could go so far as to say epic!  It is a very satisfying novel with just enough left undone to hint at a sequel!  And if there is a sequel in the future, I, for one, can’t wait to read it!

Content Analysis:  

There are two mild instances and 5 Moderate instances of profanity.  The Mermaids learned to speak by listening to sailors—and while they don’t curse or swear, they do enjoy flinging insults at people they don’t like and calling people names.

There is a great deal of violence.  The entire premise of the book is saving Venice from an evil ghost.  The bad ghosts are sometimes very frightening!  There are giant killer seagulls that don’t hesitate to attack, kill and eat people and animals; statues that come to life sometimes with blood dripping from their mouths (which are really leeches); Vampire Eels (with descriptions of them killing creatures and sucking their blood); the eels battle with mermaids where many are killed on both sides—a very bloody battle; sharks that attack viciously; a huge unknown creature whose tentacles are mistaken for poles to tie up gondolas—they try to strangle some characters and the tentacles are found full of skin-burning acid carrying the bubonic plague; millipede/cockroach insects that attack en masse and bite; a huge evil bat creature that carries people off; a butcher ghost that is completely decapitated and likes to kill and eat children (the encounters with him are many and very scary); many ghosts are in pieces and have remnants of their last punishments (burning eyes, slicing their hands with knives, etc.); an evil skeleton tries to come to life…  There is one character in particular who is very violent and full of hate.  His death is described in detail, and as he comes slowly back to life, his visual descriptions are disturbing (think ‘Voldemort’ from Harry Potter).  He has no problem killing, casting violent spells, torturing, and horribly using anyone willing to follow him.  There is a great deal of description of all violent deeds with a lot of blood and feeling involved. Many characters die during a war that is very intense.  Instruments of torture end up on display in the town. They are described in detail and at one point, are almost put to use.  There are many scary images, descriptions and encounters.

Mature Subject Matter:  

The Mature Themes are mostly all Moderate.  They include ghosts and the supernatural, Magic, casting spells and evil curses, overwhelming hate and desire for revenge, fear, prejudice, and war.  Some other more mild themes include discovering who you are within a family/friendship and mystery.

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Reviewed By Emily
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