Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Last Kiss In Venice by Martin Chu Shui

Last Kiss In Venice
by Martin Chu Shui

Available as: Kindle edition
Pages: 233
Publication date: July 11, 2012
Publisher: unknown
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal

First in the Legend of the White Snake series. From Goodreads:
"Beside a bridge over a canal in Venice, Charlie is spellbound not only by Caitlin’s absolute beauty but also by what seems like a mythical bond between them. The more he knows about her, the more mysterious she becomes. As they finally admit their love to each other in Paris, then move to settle down in Australia together, it looks like the start of Happily Ever After. But neither of them realizes that this is just the start of a heart-wrenching journey.

After a lifetime of searching, Caitlin finally finds her true love, settles down in the beautiful rolling countryside of outback Australia, and starts to raise a family, but her enemy is never far away. She loves Charlie deeply and is certain he is her soul mate, but she knows she can never reveal her secret; he must never know who she really is, and that is her downfall. Information in the hands of her enemy brings her life crashing down around her. To save all she has worked for, she must fight for her love and the right to survive.

“Last Kiss in Venice” is a reinterpretation of one of China’s most famous love stories, ‘Legend of the White Snake’. It is a supernatural love epic that encompasses both eastern and western culture to tell a story of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, revenge and justice. This cocktail of oriental magic, vampires, and sword fights is a legend not easily forgotten.

Last Kiss in Venice is a retelling of a story that is popular in China, based on the love of two soulmates who search throughout the world and over hundreds of years to reunite. The synopsis sounded pretty interesting, so I downloaded it to my Kindle for free and gave it a try.

The story itself was pretty good, but there were so many issues that an editor could have fixed (or should have fixed, if there was an editor). Errors in punctuation and sentence structure were distracting but could be overlooked. However, there were a lot of larger issues that needed to be reworked. Transitions were rough and awkward. The character's dialogues were stilted or even unrealistic, in the sense that no casual conversation would be carried out that way. For example, when discussing the legend that is at the heart of the plot, this is how two characters introduce the topic:
     " 'Have you heard about the 'White Cloud Immortal Sister'?' one old man said while holding a teacup.
     'No, I haven't,' the younger man answered. 'Could you please tell me something about this immortal sister; it sounds like she knows about magic.'
If that sort of dialogue and structure doesn't bother you, you may really enjoy this book. However, this sort of thing makes me cringe, so I found it more of a struggle to get through it.

Plot-wise, a few elements of this book were kind of puzzling. Most startling to me was that Caitlin and Charlie's relationship develops at lightning speed. The meet, they fall in love at first sight (which I'm willing to go along with for the sake of the original story), and then they are married in what seems to be a matter of days. Caitlin and her friend Alice tell a very long and complicated lie to the priest at Notre Dame in Paris to get Charlie and Caitlin married there on short notice. And then a very short time later Caitlin is pregnant. It was all just very, very quick.

Also rather puzzling is what seems to be a focus on alcohol consumption, and the attitude seems to shift between "drinking is bad!" to "everyone gets drunk to have fun!" Caitlin makes Charlie promise her that he will never drink again, but then he does (a few times), and Caitlin is perfectly fine with it and makes excuses for him. Then, when Caitlin is pregnant, Charlie has her drink also. ... Yes. Drinking alcohol while pregnant. Nine months pregnant, I believe. Now, having Caitlin's character drink at that moment in the story may be a key part of the original Chinese story (because it is kind of a key part of the plot), but I'd be curious to know whether Caitlin's character was pregnant in the original story or not. Caitlin also gets on a plane and flies very, very late in her pregnancy. Oh, and since Caitlin practices traditional Chinese medicine, she's also treating hundreds of patients for a deadly ancient disease that is destroying the world's population. And she's doing this while pregnant also, apparently with no concern about the disease transferring to her or her unborn child.

Aside from this epidemic (and the fact that Caitlin has decided that Charlie can never know she really is, and that she must hide the supernatural powers she possesses from her husband), Charlie and Caitlin's love is also tested by a supernatural enforcement agency that has been following Caitlin for some time. One of their agents, James, gets to know Charlie and teaches him all about their weapons, including the Magic Gun (or MG) and the Magic Dynamite (or MD). And yes, those are the actual names of the weapons. James is seeking revenge for his murdered wife, and later the head of the agency, Mr. Bevis, is seeking revenge of his own. There are also vampires. There is just kind of a lot going on here all at once.

But there were some parts of the book that I did enjoy. I thought the prologue was quite well done. It read like a fable, like an ancient myth told and retold over centuries. I was hooked there. And some parts of the final fight scene with Caitlin and Alice up against the supernatural agency's men were pretty exciting and read kind of like an epic battle scene. I kind of wish the whole story had been set in the past, so that the author's talents with writing historical scenes and fantastic battle scenes could have been used a little more strongly and a little more often throughout the book.

I've read that English is not the author's first language. If this is true, I think the author did a great job of essentially translating a story that is very well known and important in his own culture into a story for an audience with a very different language and culture. He states in the author's notes at the end:
"Due to my literary ability, this attempt may only be able to present a fraction of the original legend's charm; however, I do hope it will open a window to let readers having a glimpse of Chinese culture."
I may have been frustrated with grammatical and structural issues and with some aspects of the plot, but in this, in presenting readers with a glimpse of Chinese culture, I think the author succeeded. I had never heard of this story before so I'm glad that I was introduced to it, and I am interested in reading the original or traditional version of it to see what the author changed or recreated for Last Kiss in Venice.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Last Kiss in Venice is currently available for free on Amazon
Be sure to double-check the price before you download!

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