Review: The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric

Teo is browsing in an old-fashioned Venetian bookshop when a small, heavy book falls on her head. When the book greets her by name, Teo, an adventurous orphan, soon finds out that she is more than a tourist in the mysterious city.

An ancient enemy is stirring and it seems that Teo has been chosen to save Venice from his violent hatred. This is a historical novel of headless butchers, vicious seagulls, sharks, mermaids and curry.

Review

I have one word come to mind when thinking of how to describe The Undrowned Child and that is delightful. Even when you give enough thought to what’s happening around the main characters, rather than skimming over the surface, and you discover how dark the deeper subjects can be I still found it delightful. Delightful, delightful, delightful. Unfortunately I don’t believe I’ll get this delightfullness out of my system for this review so prepared to be bombarded with the word.

The mermaids would have to be my favourite, described as pretty little things but talking like sailors. I would be happy with a book revolving around them, and everything to do with them, all to enjoy their dialogue and entertaining behaviour. And you guessed it, they’re delightful.

There’s so much love of literature and words permeating the story. Teodora, or Teo for short, loves the library, has learnt to read upside down, begins the story perusing the shelves of a book shop, and is lead through her journey via a book. You’ve probably guessed by now that she’s bookish, and these are only some of the ways a love of books is used as plot points in the story. Naturally I find this delightful as well, especially when she comes across others that are bookish or have something to do with the creation of books.

The way Lovric terms phrases and describes settings makes me want to go to Venice. Right now. Not that I didn’t want to go there already, but she’s brought Venice to life more with her wonderful use of words than I have experienced since reading Anne Rice’s Cry to Heaven. It’s a different time, a different story, and not exactly a pleasant adventure that Teo goes on, but it still makes me want to explore Venice.

When it became dark I found myself feeling saddened as I read on. There’s quite an amount of sorrow underneath and surrounding the main story, but I think this is where the delightful aspects to The Undrowned Child help to keep you reading and would definitely make for a great story for it’s demographic. It’s a Middle Grade range narrative and when I was pondering how children and tweens could read about so much death, I realised The Undrowned Child has so many elements that children could relate to, and be entertained by, while also being subjected to the darker subject matter.

I think Lovric has done a superb job of including a multitude of messages in her story, messages of forgiveness, acceptance, the benefits of knowledge and history, listening to others, giving people a chance, and much more delivered in a (yes, you guessed it) delightful, colourful, and imaginative hybrid of alternative historical ficiton with fantasy. I feel this is definitely one both adults and a younger audience can enjoy, and I know I’m keeping my copy for any young ones in my family to enjoy as well.

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