Michelle Lovric has created a truly bizarre and unsettling version of Venice under the dictatorship of the cruel and peculiar tyrant Fogfinger. In the best children's book tradition, he is unequivocally evil and the adults seem helpless and, in many cases, clueless that they are even in a bad situation. Michelle Lovric's child heroes are resourceful and brave, as well as being readily relatable for child readers.
The characters are definitely a strength in this novel (and in others I've read by the same author). These Venetian fantasies are peopled by a mixture of humans and creatures (some real, some fantastic) with strongly differentiated characteristics. I love the determination and tenacity of little Amneris, first seen in peril in the prologue as she climbs up into a tower where death may await her. From this opening, we jump back three months to see how this climax is reached, meeting Tockle, son of kaleidoscope makers, and Biri, Amneris's best friend, along the way. The child characters are realistic and recognisable and I'm sure many children will view them as friends and will recognise aspects of their friends (and of themselves) in them. The evil and magical characters are gloriously larger-than-life and inventive.
The novel is tightly and intricately plotted, with plenty of clues (and red herrings) as to how it will all fit together. I certainly wasn't able to predict the details of the story and there is more than enough to surprise and delight a child reader. Michelle Lovric uses magic and fantastic beasts to help the children, working within the quest and fairy tale traditions of magical helpers, but it is their own bravery which ultimately spurs them on, resulting in a satisfying tale for young readers.
Overall. I would readily recommend this for young readers of fantasy and adventure. It has all the characteristics of the best-loved children's stories, including larger-than-life characters alongside believable child heroes, magic and mystery and clear lines between good and evil.
I really enjoyed the Fate in the box. It was full of excitement, mystery and adventure and I couldn't put it down. I have read previous books by Michelle Lovric such as The undrowned child which was equally as exciting. She is a fantastic author and I would definitely recommend her books to others.
I love Michelle Lovric's writing, her books really bring Venice with all of its mystery and magic to life.
Set in 1783, The Fate in the Box is a story full of secrets and suspense. Venice has been under the control of the mysterious Fogfinger for a number of years. Without realising it, the Venetians have allowed Fogfinger to control every aspect of their lives. This control has been exacerbated by the invention of automatons, strange robot like creations which serve the venetians with their every whim.
Fogfinger has also established a regime of fear throughout this beautiful city. The rumours of a primeval crocodile lurking has led to the annual sacrifice of a child to appease this frighteneing creature. This terrible ceremony is known as The Lambing and a child is taken to the top of a bell tower where the fate in the box will decide what their destiny will be. Will they fall into the mouth of the crocodile or will their young life be spared? The only active opponents of Fogfinger seem to be `Il Piccoli Pochi', but these brave people are ruthlessly hunted down by Fogfinger's evil followers. However, when three children meet by chance by an apricot tree things start to look like they may change for Fogfinger.
Amneris comes from a renowned Venetian sewing family, she has had a happy childhood even though she works all hours to help make money for her family. Tockle also works very hard to help support his family and collects glass on the island of Murano. Biri is another young child and spends her days with her clever parrot conning unwitting Venetians out of money. At the other end of the social scale, Latenia is incredibly spoilt and lives in vast palazzo where she spends all day eating cakes. All four children are very different, but an unexpected meeting between Amneris and Latenia brings them together and could change their lives forever.
This is a fantastic story that I read in two sittings. There is so much suspense and so many surprises in store for the reader that I really could not guess what would happen next. I highly recommend this book and can't read the next Venetian adventure by Michelle Lovric.