After thwarting the supernaturally malevolent Bajamonte Tiepolo’s plan for Venice’s annihilation in The Undrowned Child (2011), Teodora and her friend Lorenzo again find themselves, and the city, targets of destruction.
The labyrinthine plot unfurls with Venice gripped by fresh terrors—an icy flood kills many, including Renzo’s mother; illness spreads; children disappear. Renzo is pressed onto the Scilla, a ship converted to shelter orphan boys; Teo, impersonating one, joins him. The resurgent Tiepolo’s allies include an exiled lord sailing from Australia to claim the dying Queen Victoria’s throne and the villainous Miss Uish. Impersonating the Queen’s emissary, Uish assumes command of the Scilla, sets sail for London, and turns her child crew into unwilling pirates en route. Lovric again produces teeming subplots and an elaborate typology of subhuman abettors of both evil and good. The titular Emporium figures incidentally, during the London convergence halfway through; that funereal marketplace hosts a crowd of gritty street kids who trade work for overnights in the coffins. While Teo’s adoptive parents (abducted scientists conscripted to design a submarine for Tiepolo) endow that escape vehicle with a fatal flaw, this picaresque stew ends with another voluminous sequel clearly telegraphed.
This steampunk-ish tome—rife with Victorian bilge water and colossal squid gore—will best serve those who enjoyed the first. (author’s note; “What’s Real and What’s Made Up?”) (Fantasy. 10-14)