Series: The Venom Trilogy
Published by 47north on November 1st 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Reviewed by: Kim
Successful Seattle baker Alena Budrene doesn’t want to die. But when she’s infected with a lethal virus spread by supernatural beings, her only chance for recovery is to make a deal with the devil—or in this case, a warlock.
Though he saves her life, it looks nothing like the life she once knew—and neither does she. Alena is a new breed of “Supe” no one has ever seen before. Even the supernatural police don’t know what she is. Now exiled to the northern side of the Wall, which marks the divide between humans and Supes, Alena is thrust into a dark and magical new world.
But just as she begins to adjust to all things supernatural, she realizes that her transformation is the least of her worries—and it was no accident. She was chosen…to be killed by a Greek hero trying to make a name for himself once more.
Alena was brought up to be subservient, preferring creating to fighting, and vanilla and honey to blood. But that was then. Now, to survive, she must stand up for herself—and this time she’s got fangs. But will she be ready to use them?
Most novels don’t begin with the heroine dying in a secluded, high security hospital. Things get both better and worse for Alena, who has caught a super contagious wasting disease that kills every person who catches it. The only way to survive it is to be turned into a supernatural creature - any supernatural creature. This clashes with her religious upbringing, but when push comes to shove, she decides she wants to live, even if it means a new form and banishment. She is sent past the Northern Wall, a physical wall that has been built to keep the supernatural creatures away from the general populace of the United States.
VENOM & VANILLA was not quite what I was expecting: I thought it would focus more on the baking and on Alena learning to fit in north of the wall. Unfortunately for her, it’s less of a country or town, and more of a ghetto where supernaturals are dumped, encouraged to stick to their own kind and policed by a clearly corrupt police force. There are abandoned buildings, gangs, and not much else, which made me wonder where the hell all the Canadians went. It’s not clear exactly where the wall sits, but even my vague geographical knowledge had me wondering about the feasibility of building a wall along any portion of the upper United States. There are quite a few people north of there.
Alena was nearly infuriating at first, but luckily redeemed herself by the end of the book. She starts off meek and shy, refusing to swear and calling supernatural creatures Super Dupers. Her husband walks all over her, spending her money and not appreciating her. After her turn, when she has lost all human rights, she still considers herself married, even though no court will recognize her as alive or worth their time. She is super passive for the first portion of the book and she drove me crazy.
After a few good blows to her status quo, though, she finally comes into herself and starts to kick ass. She’s been set up, but the people who decided that she was the perfect pawn didn’t count on the effect of a lifetime of abuse on a girl’s mood. Especially when she can become a spectacular new kind of monster no one has seen since the glory days of greek heroes. Especially one armed with poisonous fangs and a steel rolling pin. And Alena knows how to wield a rolling pin with fatal accuracy.
The one thing that bugged me was the lack of infrastructure in the world of VENOM & VANILLA. The wall is supposed to be a big, impassable way to stop a plague, but people hop over and through it like it’s a cheese cloth with a few holes cut into it. I was expecting the world to be strictly divided, but Alena visits her parents and hops back over the wall a few times in the book. The police force are incompetent and don’t seem to care that supernaturals carrying a potentially lethal plague are getting back into the general human population. Shouldn’t they be a bit more stressed out?
Despite the logistical issues, VENOM & VANILLA was fun. Alena realistically morphed from weeping mouse to war general, and a potentially hot romance was teased at. There are interesting social questions brought up that could have serious implications in later books, and if Alena can try to get settled into her new world, I’ll be picking up the next book.Series Titles:
- Venom & Vanilla
- Fangs & Fennel
- Hisses & Honey