The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric

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The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A wonderful alternate world historical fantasy, pitting myth and legend against science. Underlying environmental themes and well-drawn characters, including curry-loving mermaids, add depth to a satisfying an literary adventure. Michelle Lovric was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 1842557025

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Venice, 1899. Teodora and her scientist parents have come to attend a conference. Venice is slowly sinking into itself, the buildings collapsing into its distinctive canals and waterways. But it's an age of reason and progress, and Teo's parents are quite certain that science has the answer. The little girl herself, however, soon discovers that Venice is beyond any solution that rational thinking can provide. And a seemingly innocuous accident in a bookshop sets off a train of horrific events in the city that only the undrowned child of prophecy can put a stop to. Teo slips into an alternate Venice between the linings. Only ghosts - and there are plenty of those - and other children can see her. Oh, and the Traitor, of course, and the mermaids...

Michelle Lovric has given us an absolutely wonderful alternate world historical fantasy in The Undrowned Child, pitting myth and legend against science in a timeless battle of good against evil. It's a very literary adventure, perhaps suited most to the very committed tween reader, or to older teenagers, despite the heroine's young age. There are four hundred pages, lots of history and intricate descriptions, and it does take its time in getting going. But once it does, the action comes thick and fast, the chapters are sensibly short, and the adventure does more rollicking than I could shake a stick at.

The underlying environmental themes are still relevant of course; Venice is sinking today as it was then. The history is fascinating, and the descriptions of Venice are tremendously vivid. But the characterisation is what really makes this book. Teo herself is a bit of a bluestocking - geeky and pretty much friendless until she arrives in Venice and finds herself the undrowned child of an ancient prophecy. Finally given a chance to shine, she shines most royally, making mistakes but showing courage and resourcefulness throughout. Her partner-in-prophecy, Lorenzo, is a dreadful Venetian snob, but shows equal bravery and eventually learns some humility. The supporting cast is equally well-drawn.

And then there are the fantastical characters. These are simply sublime - from the three types of ghost, to the Grey Lady who can transform into a cat, to the big bad villain himself, the traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo. They're all three-dimensional and they all fit perfectly into their surroundings, born from real Venetian inspiration. And then there are the mermaids, who are absolute triumphs and utterly hilarious. With speech influenced by sailors, they are as salty-tongued as they come - "What a drivelswigger! Drags on like a sea-cow's saliva!"', run underground and subversive printing presses, and have a love for spicy food. Seaweed-cocoa with cayenne pepper, anyone? How about curried lagoon samphire?

It is one for the committed reader, but this committed reader thought it was absolutely marvellous.

My thanks to the nice people at Orion for sending the book.

They might also enjoy the mixture of magic and alternate worlds in The Poison Garden by Sarah Singleton. The might also enjoy a blend of fantasy and history set closer to home in The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson. The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick is also set in Venice and is equally literary. It's probably for slightly older readers and has a vampire theme.

Bookinterviews.jpg Michelle Lovric was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Booklists.jpg The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric is in the Top Ten Books for Young Readers That Feature a Passage Between Worlds.

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Buy The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric at


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