Sweet Venom (Medusa Girls #1)

By Tera Lynn Childs

Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Publisher

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they’re triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters.

These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight.

Goodreads Summary

Basilisks. Sea dracaena. Minotaurs. Sixteen year-old Gretchen has the ability to see monsters like these walking the streets of San Francisco right under the unsuspecting eyes of normal people. Her job as a huntress is to send them back where they came from with a bite from her fangs. Gretchen was rescued from a life on the streets by a mysterious woman who knew what she was and became her guardian, educated her about the beasts and taught her how to fight them.

Grace has just moved to San Francisco from Nowheresville, U.S.A. because of a scholarship to attend an elite prep school. A dedicated tree-hugger, she doesn’t fit in among the snobby crowd and would rather hang out with her brother Thane and his very yummy friend Milo. When she first sees a Minotaur walking down the street she figures she’s gone a little nuts. Then she sees more crazy creatures at a club when she’s out with Milo and runs into Gretchen – who’s her mirror image.

A very unwilling Gretchen takes Grace under her wing and tells her what they are and starts training her to at least defend herself. Through research, Grace learns that they aren’t just twins – they’re triplets – and they track down their sister Greer, a rich girl who wants nothing to do with them until she starts seeing the monsters too.

To say this wasn’t what I expected would be an understatement. I’m a little stumped about how to describe it actually. It all felt a little half-done. I liked part of something but not all of it. It was like enjoying the first bite but then finding the second bite wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as filling as the first.

The story is told in alternating first person among the sisters with each chapter labeled with their names so you can keep them straight. For me, it was one of the things that kept me from really enjoying the book, giving the story no chance at a decent flow. Every time I thought the story was getting some good momentum and I was getting close to something good, the narrative would switch to another sister and occasionally if I wasn’t paying attention to the header on the page, I wouldn’t realize I had a new narrator and I’d be lost for a few paragraphs (I was reading a hard copy).

There was a story thread involving a boy at Gretchen’s school who seemed to have some paranormal ability – and a little romance with her developing.  Just when it seemed like she was going to confront him about what he was, the story cut away.  It was really frustrating.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell you how close Childs has followed basic mythology here. The books I’ve read so far this year have mangled it pretty badly, so I’m not really holding any author to any high standard which is sort of a shame. There was so much thrown at me from what Grace was reading in Gretchen’s library that I didn’t follow it as closely as I ought to have, but what I got from it was that they’re descendants of Medusa and her human lover who carry the legacy of the gorgon sisters (Medusa, Sthenno and Euryale): second sight, great and unnatural strength and autoportation. Greer has second sight, Gretchen has great and unnatural strength and Grace can teleport.

If I could have had my wish, it would have been that each book (assuming this is a trilogy) would be told from one sister’s perspective, beginning with Grace and ending with Gretchen. I liked Grace’s steady and inquisitive voice – she’s the one who was digging for information and was the perfect narrator to start the series and provide all the background and world-building. She was funny, a little klutzy and sweet. I really liked her budding relationship with her brother’s friend Milo, it seemed very simple and a perfect side story. She was the exactly right touch of normalcy that grounded the story.

Gretchen started the story and if she’d remained the sole narrator then the book would have had a much darker tone. She’s tough because of a nasty foster care history and isn’t interested in taking care of her sisters. She’s almost militant compared to Grace and Greer – watching her personality change over the arc of the books and with her gift of strength would have made her the perfect narrator for the end in my opinion.

Greer was pretty hard to like. A lot of that may be because she came in near the end and there wasn’t a lot of time to know her, but she was such a stereotypical rich girl that my teeth were grinding in most of her scenes. There just isn’t a lot to say about her other than I hope she gets more likable in future books.  Her too rapid transformation into a believer and connection with her sisters felt a bit hokey to me.

My Summary: I like the premise of the story a lot. I think it’s unusual, has great potential for lots of action and a bucket load of great mythology. While I think the characters of Gretchen, Grace and Greer were strangely put into hard stereotypes, they all could be interesting if given time to develop on their own over future books. The problem for me is that “future books” caveat – this ended on a big cliffhanger with more questions left unanswered than on most books in a series. I wanted more from this book, not to have to wait for more books to have my attention grabbed. I liked this. I just didn’t love it.

My Rating: C-



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