The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick

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The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Tense and claustrophobic Gothic novel set in eighteenth century Venice. Menace, threat, faith and hope combine to provide a tremendously atmospheric novel of great sophistication. Good stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2008
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 184255185X

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Marko's father, a doctor, has gone missing and a mysterious and menacing letter convinces the young boy that he should travel to Venice to search for him. Once there, he finds Sorrel, whose father was Marko's father's patient. Sorrel is as determined to find the cause of her father's horrible illness as Marko is to find his. And the children couldn't be more different. Marko has natural optimism and the lessons he learned as his father's dispensing assistant give him a logical and enquiring mind. Sorrel, on the other hand, is superstititious and given to gloom. She asked Marko to come, but now he's here, she finds it difficult to become a partner, not a loner.

But it soon transpires that they'll need all their wits about them if they are to tackle and defeat the menace that lies behind the beauty and glamour of the city of canals. The Shadow Queen is abroad again, and her vampire attendants may be with her.

The Kiss of Death follows on from Sedgwick's earlier vampire novel My Swordhand is Singing but it is not a sequel. Its central character, Peter, plays an important part in the story, but the narrative's main focus is on Marko and Sorrel and on the contradictions found in a big city such as Venice. It's all glamour on the outside, but on the inside all sorts of evils lurk. And Sedgwick achieves this wonderfully well, both through the elegance of his prose and and the insights of his two, very different, heroes. There isn't a great deal of gore, but there is a huge amount of menace and as the watery city gradually reveals its secrets, real tension builds up.

Vampires are hot property in children's books at the moment, but you're unlikely to find classier treatment. Sedgwick isn't writing horror schlock for kicks; he's writing serious novels that bear analysis, with sophisticated conflicts and relationships to consider. But the style is concise and elegant, so the books aren't dense or inaccessible. They're interesting, creepy, and tense. And all junior fans of horror should read them.

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

If they haven't already, they should read the first book in the series. Fans of all things bitey might like the modern day vampires in The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld.

Booklists.jpg The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick is in the Top Ten Books About Vampires.

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