The Undrowned Child
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There is perhaps no other contemporary novelist as immersed in all things Venetian as Michelle Lovric. Already the author of three adult novels all inspired by La Serenissima, including Orange Prize long-listed The Remedy, Lovric has now set her first novel for younger readers there too. The Undrowned Child is a sumptuous read, as luxuriant and magical as Venice itself.
On a visit to the city with her adoptive parents, 11-year-old Teodora is hit on the head by a falling book as she browses in an old-fashioned bookshop. The book, entitled ‘The Key to the Secret City’ sets off a portentous sequence of events, which herald the return of an evil undead traitor who means to destroy the city and consign its inhabitants to a fate worse than death in his lust for revenge. Only Teo, the ‘Undrowned Child’ of an old prophecy, with the help of a somewhat hostile Venetian boy, Renzo, can save Venice now.
Bursting with plot devices based on real historical events and actual Venetian locations, The Undrowned Child also teams with a myriad cast of fantastic creatures, including Syrian cats with wings; terrifying wooden statues that move, fiercesome seagulls, vampire eels, thousands of cockroaches and most memorably of all, a cavern of curry-loving mermaids. So rich in detail is Lovric’s tale that occasionally readers are in real danger of losing themselves in its labyrinthine twists and turns. Yet this is perhaps forgivable, for, as any visitor to Venice knows, giving oneself up to its maze of alleyways and waterways is the only way to get to know the city. So it is with The Undrowned Child. Even if you’ve never been to Venice, you’ll probably be under its spell once you emerge from reading this.