Author: Fiona Paul
Genre: YA, historical, paranormal, retellings, AWESOME
Publication Date: July 16, 2013 (Penguin – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!
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 fiancé, 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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – an absolutely AWESOME followup to book one!
Review: Okay, guys, if you liked “Venom”, you’re going to totally fall head over heels for “Belladonna”. “Belladonna” builds upon “Venom” in every single way, and ups the stakes to every single extreme. There’s also a bit of a potential bit of a retelling of a real-life person, and it’s just…awesome. We also get a semi-resolution of the love triangle posed in book one. This review may have spoilers for book one, so if you haven’t read book one, you might want to hold off on reading this review. Either way, if you haven’t already, you simply MUST give the “Eternal Rose” series a try – it’s one of my favorite YA historical paranormal series out there today.
My favorite part about this book: we get so much more worldbuilding! I mean, it’s really quite incredible. We get to see Florence, and the path from Venice to Florence, and we also get some backstory with Cass’ parents, the Order, and more. We get a richer history of not only our characters, but also what was going on at the time of when Cass would have lived had she been real in terms of what the church was doing with witch hunts (or in this case, vampire hunts). Paul continues to build upon her already very rich and detailed recreation of Venice culture, with the addition of Florence and it’s utterly absorbing. Of course, what helps with all of this sensory input is Paul’s impressive command of sensory imagery and language, which she’s gotten even better at since book one. This book felt soft, sensuous, and at the same time, dangerous. I love it when my books can give me feelings like those.
We also get some new characters in this book – the book’s namesake, Belladonna, her resident doctor, and more. I have to say, I love my villains, and Belladonna is one of my favorite villainesses that I’ve read in YA lit in a long while. She’s seductive, she’s got an agenda, and she’s always ten steps ahead of you. All of the new characters (and even some of the older ones) constantly make you wonder – can you trust them? Can Cass trust them? Is Cass a reliable narrator? At times, these characters do make Cass an unreliable narrator, which is something that not only caught me by surprise but made me love the book even more (since I love unreliable narrators in my books). And of course, all of these characters, new and old, help to support and build the world even more.
But what made me especially happy in this installment? The bloody love triangle gets solved. I won’t say who wins (that’d be too much of a spoiler), but let’s just say that I was very satisfied with the outcome, and it left me questioning – is that third partner involved with the Order consciously, willingly? Has all of this been just a game to get Cass involved? What does Agnese know? And what does all of this have to do with the agenda of the Order – which has changed drastically over the years, with a kind of retelling of the Countess of Bathory involved in this book? (I absolutely loved how Paul snuck that in – though I don’t know if it was conscious or not.) So many questions are raised in this book, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for “Starling” (book 3) to answer at least a few of these questions.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for some amazing renaissance YA lit with a twist of the paranormal, you simply MUST check out this series. “Belladonna” is out now from Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! Definitely on my best of 2013 list so far.