Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Review: Viper by Bex Hogan

Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Published: 18th April 2019

Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.

But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.

He's the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne's father.

She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves - and perhaps even her life?  

I've had an obsession with all things pirate related ever since I first watched the film Cutthroat Island and saw Geena Davis as a take-no-prisoners female pirate, on a quest for buried treasure. If I hadn't become a librarian then maybe life upon the high seas would have beckoned! I tell you this because it helps to explain my absolute obsession with 'Viper' by Bex Hogan. A debut which has stolen my heart.

I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it! A fantasy pirate adventure, it delivered everything I want in a book and more. It conjured up the salty smell of the sea, the tang of spilt blood and the taste of danger. It gripped and entranced me from start to finish and my only criticism is that it wasn't twice the number of pages, so that I could have prolonged my enjoyment. It's one of the BEST books I've read so far this year and one that I'm going to be begging everyone else to read too.

The first in the Isles of Storm and Sorrow trilogy (oh thank goodness that there will be more!), the story follows the main character of 17 year old Marianne. She is the daughter of the Viper - the deadliest Pirate Captain on the seas and the 'supposed' defender of the Twelve Isles. The Viper is as evil and ruthless as they come and although Marianne is his daughter, he has never shown her any love or understanding. He only knows how to punish and cause pain. Throughout the course of the story the father-daughter dynamic is explored in depth, as Marianne struggles to make sense of her relationship with him. One of the main elements to draw me into a book, is a strong female protagonist with a powerful narrative voice. Marianne was exactly that and I became very invested in her journey and what lay ahead of her.

There are some terrific secondary characters in the book too. One of my absolute favourites was Bronn, who was her childhood friend on-board The Maiden, until he became her father's most valuable assassin. There's also Grace, who is another female member of the crew and who veers hot and cold a lot with her emotions. Plus Prince Torin who it took me a while to warm-up too then suddenly became amazing about half-way through the book. Complicated relationships are actually quite a strong characteristic in the story, probably because everyone seems to be hiding something. Also, a word of warning. It might not be safe to get too attached to anyone because literally every character in the book is in danger at some point.

I thought that the world-building in the novel was particularly impressive. Each of the islands is unique because of it's setting and landscape, which is reflected in the people that live there. I felt like I could visualise each of them perfectly and I enjoyed the exploration of many of these as I found out more about them and their history.

Hogan interweaves lots of action and adventure into the story which is laced with traces of magic and blushes of romance. I hope we get to find out more about the magical mythology that was touched upon as I found this really intriguing. I have a feeling that there is lots more of that to come.

'Viper' delivered on every level and if there's one book that I want everyone to read this year, this is it. I'm so happy to see pirates emerging as a genre within YA novels as I will literally devour anything in this niche. Bex Hogan's debut though is certainly a novel that is hard to beat. I was beyond thrilled to find out that the second book in the series will be called 'Venom' but not so happy to discover that I've got to wait until 2020 for it to be released. Until then, I'd better dig out my pirate boots.

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