Book Review: VENOM by Bex Hogan

Title in gold against a dark red background edged by orange and gold flames
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: Yes - second book



Book cover for VENOM: two hissing snake heads and flames around a compass-like roundel bearing the titles, everything in red, orange and white

Marianne has never wanted to be a fighter, but with unrest and discord threatening the Twelve Islands, she will have to battle threats both inside and out in an attempt to attain peace for her homeland.

Marianne is now the Viper, but her hopes for peace in the Eastern Isles are being frustrated. The corrupt King remains on the throne, bandits are proving hard to stop and Marianne is not sure who among her crew she can truly trust.

For the islands to prosper, the invisible bond that once existed uniting land and sea must be reinstated. There’s only one way that can happen – the return of magic. To do that Marianne must put aside all her fears: she must return to her roots, the Western Isles, and call on the power that runs in her blood.

She must become a Mage. Only then, can she possibly command the army needed to finally take down the King.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is an incredible sequel that takes what we know about the world and status quo of the first book and flips it on its head.

A lot happens in this book, tossing you right into the action from chapter one, and then doesn’t let up as Marianne flees from enemies all around. It’s a book you need to start when you have the ability to read in pretty much one go, because I was so frustrated when I had to keep putting it down for the puny human necessity called sleep. There are a lot of twists that keep the action pacing high, but its balanced with Marianne’s struggles with magic and herself, as well as her relationships.

I really liked seeing the Western Isles, which seem even more dangerous than the Eastern. I’m not sure I’d like to live on any. On the East, famine and bandits will kill me, on the West, it’s the landscape itself – and the factions arguing over who should be the ruler.  Maybe I’ll retreat into the Snow Isle and hope the horse guardians take me in?

At the same time, the magic is delved into, as well as the cost. The mirrors between the magic journey and the Viper journey were really fun – and I loved finding the similar beats and how they showed Marianne’s journey across the two books. Gaius’ idea that Marianne is holding herself back for fear of what she can do is super interesting to explore, and then it all gets turned on its head in the finale.

The ending so mean – an emotional wrangler of a cliffhanger. It’s horribly nasty, as there’s a whole year until the next book, and I need to know what happens next. As has been said by numerous friends who’ve also read it, Bex Hogan is an evil genius for that ending. Prepare to have a gaping wound in your heart and LOTS of theories.

Read my reviews of other books by Bex Hogan:

Isles of Storm and Sorrow (this series):

2 thoughts on “Book Review: VENOM by Bex Hogan

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