Grace moves to San Francisco and is eager to start over at her new school. Her life is full of new possibilities, but it’s also a bit scary. It gets a whole lot scarier when she sees mythical creatures that shouldn’t exist and other people don’t even notice. She thinks she might be going crazy until she meets Gretchen, her twin. Gretchen has been fighting mythical creatures and returning them to their realm for four years, ever since she ran away from her abusive parents and learned about her destiny as a descendant of Medusa from her new guardian, . Balancing her monster-slaying and school is hard, but she’s managed to do a pretty good so far. That is until there are more monsters than there are supposed to be and it ceases to be something she can handle. When Grace shows up, she’s torn, but eventually decides to train her to fight. The monsters seem to want to capture or kill them (which is new) and they discover that whoever brings them in dead or alive gets a free pass to live on Earth forever. They also discover there is a third descendent who is completely unaware. Can they make it to her before the monsters do? Together can they somehow banish the creatures permanently?
Sweet Venom is an interesting new take on Greek mythology. The Medusa we know of is a hideous, evil Gorgon that turns people into stone with her gaze. In actuality, Medusa is a guardian of our world against mythical creatures and she was murdered by Perseus because of Athena’s hatred and possible jealousy. Her name even means guardian or protectress, so this alternative mythology has some basis in reality. Medusa has immortal sisters, named Euryale and Stheno, who I haven't heard much about in my mythological education. Through my research, I found out that Medusa and her sisters were turned into monstrous beings by Athena because Medusa was raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple. Athena, outraged by the desecration, bizarrely decided to blame Medusa. In reality, it was probably more because Athena was jealous of Medusa's beauty. This villainous side of Athena is really interesting, but unfortunately isn't explored in this part of the series (which feeds into some of my annoyance with this book). I hope to see more in the next books in the series.
The three descendants of Medusa, Grace, Gretchen, and Greer, are all engaging characters that are completely different from one another. Grace is my favorite because she is a technology enthusiast. She works to make the vital information easier to access and practically impossible to lose by digitizing the dossiers on the different monsters. Grace brings a more analytical and intellectual side to their job. Through her research and general nosiness, she discovers the prophecy about her and her sisters and more details about their immortal ancestors. Gretchen , on the other hand, is more enthusiastic about fighting with her preternatural strength. She's a little more mature and jaded than the other girls because of her past: escaping from abusive parents, living on the streets, and then living without much supervision with her mentor and guardian while nightly fighting mythological baddies. Her sense of realism grounds her sisters and shows them the reality of being a descendant of Medusa that often isn't as easy as they might think. Greer comes in really late in the book. Her life is completely different from her sisters', full of parties, designer clothes, and expensive shoes. The revelation is a rude awakening for her not only because of the undignified fighting ahead, but also because she didn't know she was adopted. She is my least favorite, but she showed potential to become less annoying and vapid by the end.
My biggest problem with Sweet Venom is that there is no real ending. The story line isn't resolved in any way. Most books in series have a few loose ends to make a sequel plausible, but this one just feels incomplete. Other than that, Sweet Venom is a really enjoyable read and one of the most unique mythology based teen books I've read. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins