This book is a beautiful gem. It is clearly written for intelligent younger readers, but there is also much for adults to enjoy. On first acquaintance with it I was irresistably reminded of the HARRY POTTER books. However, like Venice itself, there is more to THE UNDROWNED CHILD than might at first be apparent.
Like Harry Potter, the heroine of this marvellous fantasy discovers a magical realm that is unseen by most of the ordinary world. Again, like Harry Potter she discovers that she is the enemy of an evil force seeking to restore his material form and wreak vengeance on those who previously defied him. Like J.K. Rowling's hero she meets a cornucopia of supernatural beings and is aided in her fight against the enemy by various magical devices.
But THE UNDROWNED CHILD is a far more subtle and evocative read than J.K. Rowling's creation. Part of its charm lies in the depiction of Venice - clearly born of an abiding passion for the architecture, culture, art and history of arguably the most beautiful city in the Western World. There is a dream-like beauty to this book which reminded me more of C.S.Lewis at his best than the stories of Hogwarts. The research and knowledge that has gone into this work shines through even during the phantasmagorical encounters with ghosts, werewolves, talking cats etc.
Author Michelle Lovric has mastered a compelling prose style that will captivate younger and older readers alike. Lovric, like her heroes, clearly loves books and learning. This is not to say that the book is in any way stuffy or humourless. The rough-talking, curry-eating mermaids are a comic highlight, and Lovric makes the 2 human heroes undergo a great deal of peril in the best traditions of fairy tales and fantasy adventure stories. Teo and Renzo are depicted as flawed and loveable protagonists and there is a warm vein of humour running through the narrative. Be warned though - due to some of the more horrific incidents in the book I would certainly not suggest it as suitable for smaller children.
The best recommendation I can give this book is that it made me want to go to Venice as soon as I'd finished it. There also seems to be room for a sequel or two. On the evidence of this book it appears that there may well be a lot more mileage in exploring this alternate and fantastical version of Venice.