The Fate in the Box by Michelle Lovric

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The Fate in the Box by Michelle Lovric

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Venetians are easily distracted by novelties, and the evil Fogfinger uses this weakness to gain power over them. He even persuades them to sacrifice children every year to the monster in the canals. For Amneris and her friends, what starts as a struggle to oppose the dictator suddenly becomes a fight for their lives.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444003390

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Venice is a place of contrasts, where poverty and extravagance jostle each other for space on the misty streets. But its inhabitants, poor or rich, have always been intensely proud of their city and its history. Ships arrive full of wonders from across the world, skilled glassblowers create magnificent artefacts, and magic is occasionally to be found in the oddest of nooks and crannies. Amneris, for example, knows that if she embroiders an exact copy of the fabulous patterns created by 'the dear creature' (as they call Uncle Annibale's kaleidoscope) each week, she and her family will always earn enough to live on.

Tockle is not so lucky. His father is missing and despite their hard work the family often goes hungry. And Biri, whose parents have been deported to Serbia for opposing their leader Fogfinger, is reduced to sleeping in a burnt-out stone-masons' yard and going through rubbish dumps for food. None of them can imagine what it would be like to have the kind of wealth enjoyed by the mysterious veiled girl who occasionally appears at city functions.

But despite its beauty and opulence, Venice is also a place of menace, ugliness and horror. Tiny ears are embedded into the walls to spy on anyone who criticises Fogfinger; the priests who cared so kindly for their parishioners have been replaced in the pulpits by mechanical apes, and any child who is too noisy as he or she runs out of school is sprayed with a pox which slowly rots their lungs and kills them. And then, perhaps worst of all, two children must be chosen each year for the Lambing, a ritual in which a jack-in-the-box decides if they should live, or be fed to the Primaeval Crocodile. And as these children are invariably chosen from among the poor and the powerless, nothing is ever done about it. Except . . . that's not exactly true.

The Fate in the Box opens with a stomach-churning scene as one of our heroes is made to climb the ramp to the top of the tower and her probable death, before going back a few months to become a lively and exciting adventure full of courage, daring deeds and humour. A group of young friends unite to save their families and their beloved town, helped and sometimes hindered by the brattish and spoilt Latenia. They come across all manner of marvels on their way, including mermaids who learned to speak human languages by listening not to delicate, well-brought-up young ladies, but to pirates and sailors. Colourful is a polite way to describe the words they use! Cats talk and fly — when they're in the mood — and statues chatter and spread gossip even faster than fish-wives. And as the magic rises, all manner of wonders and marvels are seen in the ancient streets. This delightful book will lead the reader on a break-neck emotional ride, from nail-biting fear and disgust to sympathy and laughter. Some of the same minor characters (like the mermaids) reappear in other stories but the book stands alone as a complete and atmospheric adventure. And you'll never see Venice in the same way again!

The salty Venetian mermaids of this book have featured in more than one of Ms Lovric's previous books. Bookbag enjoyed reading about them in The Undrowned Child and then in The Mourning Emporium.

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Buy The Fate in the Box by Michelle Lovric at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Fate in the Box by Michelle Lovric at


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