I absolutely loved Viper last year, so of course I had to preorder the sequel. To top it off, the amazing Hachette Children’s Group granted my Netgalley wish for it last week, so I got to read most of Venom early!
This post may contain spoilers for Viper, which is the first book in the trilogy, so if you haven’t read it yet, please go and read it before returning to this post!
Trigger warning: attempted rape, graphic details of torture, death, murder, kidnapping
Marianne has never wanted to be a fighter, but with unrest and discord threatening the Twelve Islands, she will have to battle threats both inside and out in an attempt to attain peace for her homeland.
Marianne is now the Viper, but her hopes for peace in the Eastern Isles are being frustrated. The corrupt King remains on the throne, bandits are proving hard to stop and Marianne is not sure who among her crew she can truly trust.
For the islands to prosper, the invisible bond that once existed uniting land and sea must be reinstated. There’s only one way that can happen – the return of magic. To do that Marianne must put aside all her fears: she must return to her roots, the Western Isles, and call on the power that runs in her blood.
She must become a Mage.
Only then, can she possibly command the army needed to finally take down the King.
Hogan has such a skill for creating brilliant world-building and constantly keeping me on my toes. Every time the story seems to breathe and rest, there’s a sudden twist, but it never feels frantic, rather carefully manipulated and controlled by a master puppeteer. All this builds to one of the most vicious endings I have read.
This is an explosive, rip-roaring book, but it stills allows for introspective character growth and self-discovery. Marianne is such a complex main character and I really empathised with her ongoing conflicts and search for identity. Hogan offers no easy solutions and I like how this is an overarching character arc for Marianne. Her actions have consequences and seeing the effect of her choice play out is both unexpected and smart writing. The fighting scenes are some of my highlights for the book, as they are so vivid and action-packed, you can easily envision them on a film screen.
I adore the rich world of the Twelve Isles so much and through Venom, Hogan allows us to explore more of her gorgeously imagined world. Her world building is given time to shine, as we explore new lands, all with their own distinctive character and feel. This entwines perfectly with the growth of politics, directly linked to Marianne’s own conflicts that gives us a multi-faceted story. You can sympathise with a lot of the different perspectives, but Hogan ensures that is never the case with the nefarious figures we occasionally encounter. Their dark and twisted deeds ooze with unsettling menace and unhinged morals, really tapping into the idea of the corruptive nature of power that literature has drawn on time and time again.
Appropriately for this sequel, there is a darker tone and a constant creeping sense of foreboding hanging over every word. You never quite know where Hogan is going to draw you next and that is proven quite forcefully by a genuinely shocking ending.
My only criticism of this incredible sequel is why we have to wait another year for the next instalment!