Kiss of Death
Marcus Sedgwick

18th-century Venice, with its lapping waterways and dark, twisting alleyways, provides a backdrop for Sedgwick's tense and gripping gothic vampire novel, which sets out Sorrel's search for a cure for her ailing father. The only person to hold the key to his cure is Marko's doctor father - but he has disappeared. Marko and Sorrel unravel the mystery, with the help of the ancient Peter, a vampire-slayer (years on from My Swordhand is Singing), who is still on the trail of the Shadow Queen - who is gathering strength, recruiting a new army of the Undead for a final confrontation.

"It took me a couple of goes to really fall for Sedgwick's first vampire novel, My Swordhand is Singing, but it turned out to be brilliant. If you haven't read it, do, because The Kiss of Death is an equally gripping sequel." Amanda Craig, The Times

"The author's beautifully crafted descriptions bring to life real scenes of 18th-century Venice while weaving a gothic tale that send shivers down the reader's spine" (Writing)
Alex, from University College School London

Kiss of Death is quite well written and had me wanting to read more after the first 20 pages. Although this isn’t really the kind of book that I would normally pick up and read, I read and enjoyed it.  What made me want to read it more was the fact that it was set in the past. Although this is a sequel I think you can read it without any background knowledge of the first book, I managed to.


The only reason why I am going to mark it down to 4 stars is that the story isn’t very memorable; it only took me a day or two to read it and by the end I couldn’t remember what had happened in the beginning.

Amy, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

I felt The Kiss of Death was really interesting. I liked the part where the dad draws with face paint on his daughter’s face and he drew a skull. I really liked this book.

Ankita, from Newcastle Under Lyme School

Marko goes to Venice in search of his lost father where he meets Sorrel, a girl whose father had been a friend of Marko’s father. Her father has a strange illness, and only Marko’s father has the cure for it. That is when the adventure starts.


As soon as I saw the title I knew that I would not like this book. The story is full of violence and vampires, and is definitely not my cup of tea. The pace of the story is slow, and makes the reader want to skip a few pages to get through the boring parts, but some parts of the book were interesting. The ending was also quite predictable. I cannot give an honest review about this book but people who are interested in horror and action would probably enjoy this book much more than I did.

Annabel, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

Venice. A wonderful place to be at Carnival time. Or is it?


With his mother occupied and his father - a doctor - disappeared, Marko is the only recipient of a  message, who goes to Venice to seek his father. When he arrives his host – Sorrel - is hostile towards him. Sorrel's father has extreme insomnia and is under a spell. Can Sorrel and Marko find the doctor in time to stop horrible things from happening?


I liked this book but found the plot quite thick at times; it was hard to follow. Set in Venice, the atmosphere is frightening at times. It is at Carnival but the masks mean you do not know who is behind them. I would recommend this book to older readers.

Anthony, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

This story starts with Marko sailing to Venice to find his father, who is missing in the floating city. He meets Sorrel, a merchant’s daughter, whose Father is trapped in the house with a terrible illness. As they investigate they find that the strands all draw together on an island, plagued by the undead. Only an old man with an even older sword can save them, and the city…


This book was a good read, well-written with an interesting setting. Evocative description and atmosphere made this thrilling. However, the story was let down by the lack of character development. Overall - 6.5/10

Archana, from St Mary's School Cambridge

This eighteenth-century story, set in Venice, tells the adventure of a courageous boy named Marko, who is piecing together a mystery, along with this curious friend, Sorrel. Whist Marko and Sorrel embark on their dangerous journey through Venice, a perilously dangerous vampire, known as the Shadow Queen, along with her followers is preparing for a final battle.


I enjoyed this book as I like to read about folkloric creatures (such as vampires). It was filled with mystery and unexpected surprises, which created clear images in my head as it was written very vividly.

Bethanee, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

The story starts with the family of a doctor, who are surprised to receive an envelope containing a strange letter, and an unsigned note asking to meet at a pub called the White Lion. The eldest child Marko, determined to solve the mystery of the two notes, decides to leave his home and travel to the last place his father was seen, his birth-place - Venice.


Marcus Sedgwick's novels are a great mix of genres aimed at older teenagers.  It had all the atmosphere and tension I would expect, as it was an enjoyable read and I whizzed through the story in a matter of hours. I think my biggest problem was that it just wasn't very memorable. 
I liked the story line a lot and I think that the way he tells it is great!  I would recommend this book to anyone!

Charley, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

Kiss of Death is an enthralling vampire novel.  I didn’t think I would like it at first as I am not too keen on vampires.  The image of vampires in this book is completely different from classic vampires.  The way Kiss of Death is written makes it mysterious and exciting and encourages you to empathise with the characters.  It really keeps you reading. 


Overall, it is one of the easier books in the six, but won’t bore you at the same time.  

Charlotte, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

“In Venice death comes by water” and it is the perfect place for the Shadow Queen’s latest act.  Here there are many surprises and secrets lurking, waiting to be discovered and, as the final battle begins, Marcus and Sorrel find the answers.


This story is highly successful in its setting and plot.  It is a gripping read and I really enjoyed the book, particularly the way it started with a letter, as you need to find out what it means.

Cody, from University College School London

I thought The Kiss of Death was a good book at first but it started to drag on a bit. It was also very confusing in places as I was not sure who was speaking. The ending was a bit predictable but I still liked it.

Courtney, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

In The Kiss of Death, a young man, Marko, goes to Venice to help someone and find his father. In the end he finds his father in the worst way.


I think this book is a bit too Gothic for me because of all the death and blood. On the other hand it's an excellent mystery. I do recommend this book.

Daniel, from University College School London

Having read one of the other books the author has written, I opened the front cover of The Kiss of Death full of expectation and excitement. The author seems well accustomed to writing about foreign countries, and in this story of supernatural love, life, and death, the cruel hostile streets of the Venice portrayed are the perfect surrounding.


Gothic Venice is full of lies and slander, with people using several mediums to report on anything done against the law. This atmosphere of suspicion and mild paranoia attracts the attention of the reader and augments the darkness of the situation in which Marco and Sorrel find themselves.


The characters are also enchanting and idiosyncratic, but equipped with the tools and quirks to make them able to frighten you.  Simono, for example, father to Sorrel, with his depraved tendencies and chronic insomnia, and Sorrel, written as a girl who is at first quite dismissive of innocent Marco, but gradually warms to him as the story progresses.


The storyline and writing are beautifully atmospheric, the author has displayed the ability to be able to write both in an ominous and threatening fashion, and in a style of action thrill, which at times has you shaking with uncertainty.


This book completely surpassed all my expectations. Its diverse and genre-rich storyline, combined with strange and mysterious characters all enclosed in the dark and malevolent Venetian setting, are all beautifully fused to create this magnificent book.


I would definitely recommend this book to all children aged 12 – 14, for its excitement and aptitude to captivate any reader. I have no doubt that this book will encourage children to read, ten out of ten! 

Ed, from Sturminster Newton High School, Dorset

Set in 18th-century Venice, Marko must hurry there from his home in the countryside to rescue his father who left to help an old friend of his but did not return. Aided by half a mysterious letter, he meets Sorrel, the daughter of the old friend, and they must find their missing fathers together.


I enjoyed this book as it gave a really good atmosphere when reading. Marcus Sedgwick has really woven great inspiration into this and this compels you to read more. I liked the fact that they weren’t real vampires as it gave it a more believable feel and this was crucial for this book.


However, some things were not really shown clearly in it. At the end of the book I was still wondering who Peter was, how he knew the shadow queen and why the glass fangs were needed. But these were my only concerns and they are greatly outweighed by the good points.


I liked this book and would give it 8/10. I only took marks off because of what I felt was a hurried ending.

Elliot, from University College School London

One could truly describe this book as a groundbreaking gothic nightmare.


A lone boy, by the name of Marco, is tossed into a place of horror and despair, a place that segregates itself from the world through secrets and a somewhat spine-chilling miasma. In search of his lost father, Marco will unwittingly stumble upon a force so great that even his seemingly indefatigable determination to find him will not be enough to keep him on his feet.


This poor boy, along with a friend, whose circumstances are almost identical, must wade through the swamp of corruption, where secrets are one with the shadows and where evil transgresses from one spot of darkness to another, until you can feel its icy breath on the back of your neck. This swamp is Venice.


So, I take it you can figure out that I was astounded by this book. This was the perfect story along with the perfect setting. This story had a new blend of emotions for me. Two opposite emotions were required. A person would have to be somewhat emotionless in order to be able to function in such a place, yet paradoxically emotional in order to differentiate themself from their environment.


I had to be ready for anything when reading this book. I distinctly remember cautiously turning the pages every time Marko and his friends met a new person. Very often I was right to be wary, for traitors were often so close that they had already passed the character’s line of sight in a malevolently subtle way.


I promise that anyone who reads this book will not be able to put it down. The fast-paced and constant surprises provide consistent excitement throughout. Yet the sad and desperate moments also keep your empathy as fresh as when you read the first chapter. Kiss of Death is a credit to Marcus Sedgwick. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone my age.

Ellis, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

A mysterious letter pulls a young man by the name of Marko to the foreboding and dangerous city of Venice in search of the meaning of the letter and in search of his father. Upon his arrival in this shady city he meets the depressed young woman named Sorrel who needs his and his father’s help. So now the race is on to find Marko’s father and end the terrible curse of an illness that has been haunting Sorrel’s family for generations. Fantastically written, Sedgwick builds suspense epically and leaves you guessing until the very end with surprises around every corner. A top read.

Emily, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

Sorrel and Marko embark on an adventurous journey to set free Sorrel’s mad father from his illness, but they need to first find Marko’s father for this to happen. Venice is full of horror but when looking at it from a distance it looks wonderful. Along winding, narrow pathways Sorrel and Marko come across many disasters.


This book has amazing descriptions of Venice and as you read it you realise the characters aren’t all that they seem to be. The genre of the book is horror and it is very tense. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to teenagers of all ages. 


Estelle, from St James Catholic High School

The Kiss of Death had a most intriguing title and I loved the beginning. The plot seemed full of promise. However I disliked the way it went into fantasy mode. I felt it was a twilight “wannabe” that somehow couldn’t keep the reader entertained. The more I read the more my interest waned.


Overall I didn’t like the book. 

Faresha, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

This book is a thrilling vampire story which grips you from the start. The story is about two young people called Marko and Sorrel who meet in Venice for the first time to uncover the mystery of Marco’s father, who has suddenly gone missing, and Sorrel’s father who has been plagued by an illness unknown. There they meet a kind man named Peter who helps them find Marco’s father and defeats The Queen of Shadows ...


I really like this book because it grabs you from the start until the end. It’s also full of mystery which keeps you guessing all the way through the book, and the plot keeps twisting and turning. It’s a story of vampires and vampire armies which anybody would enjoy reading.


My favourite character in the book is Sorrel. This is because she was very brave throughout the book and when her father was on the verge of dying she kept it together. She was also very determined to find Marko’s father and despite nearly getting killed by Father Fei she carried on trying to find him. Also in the beginning of the story she was quite “miserable” and she was full of “anger and bile”, but after her father got better, she was a much happier person.


My least favourite character in the book is Venetia… 

Garima, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

I loved this book. It was written in a very compelling way, as the hairs on the back of my neck were tingling whilst I read the book. The plot was well planned as everything made no sense in the beginning yet everything fitted in by the time you reached the end – like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.


The setting was...interesting. As it was set in Venice, I was unable to relate to the book since I have never been there. However, it was described in such a way that I was able to imagine. It was set in the 18th century.


Sorrel’s character was well developed, showing exactly what her personality was like – her likes and dislikes and her attitude. I could almost anticipate what her next words would be. I think Marko’s character could have been slightly more developed as I am still unable to say what he was like.


The beginning immediately grasped my attention. The letter really creeped me out.


It does get very complicated during the book, yet the way the book is written it doesn’t seem that way.

Harriet, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

The Kiss of Death is an exciting book with an unexpected twist. It begins with the main character Marko receiving a letter for help to find his Father and another person who has gone mad. There the dark tale begins twisting and turning in every direction. Marko’s journey takes him to Venice where he meets Sorrel, who is suffering from depression. Many adventurous, exciting and murderous things happen to them before their return home. Their lives will never be the same again. 

Ishan, from University College School London

Kiss of Death was a slightly more unconventional book in many ways:  it had a realistic setting that wasn’t very common, such as England or America, and was set overseas in Venice. What the author did differently is that he turned a stereotypically beautiful, romantic and serene city on its head – it is portrayed as a dark, evil and sick city. This is what our protagonist Marc finds out when he comes from his home village of Pires, which is quite the opposite.


The story takes place in Venice where Marc arrives after receiving a letter about the absent father [whose whereabouts] nobody knows. Upon arrival he is acquainted with his partner in adventure, Sorrel, a beautiful girl who needs to find Marc’s father to help cure hers. The author cleverly makes Sorrel reflect the atmosphere of Venice as well.

Joe, from University College School London

When I opened this book I was unusually optimistic as I have enjoyed Marcus Sedgwick’s previous books. I was terribly disappointed.


You can tell the storyline needs rethinking when in two chapters it is blatantly obvious what’s going to happen. The plot is peppered with clichés such as when a character says ‘You did it’. It smacks of a cheap film made in a week and is about as enjoyable. There are many different problems to be solved, one of which is the quest to find Marko’s father. It’s not something I care about because there is little urgency to find him and it’s not an interesting quest. I wasn’t gripped by the story, I was bored by it.


With the characters too, there’s too much to criticise. The main characters, Marko and Sorrel, aren’t loveable and you feel no sympathy towards them when they get into danger, just a wish they wouldn’t get out of it. A word of advice to Marcus Sedgwick: in future think about what you’re writing.

Joey, from University College School London

I have mixed feelings about the work of Marcus Sedgwick. I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Red, Snow White; however this initial enthusiasm for his work soon petered as I went on to read The Foreshadowing, a respectable effort, however failing to satisfy my sizable expectations. My Swordhand is Singing graced my bedside table next, however its stay was prematurely cut short, as the dark claws of tedium gripped me, prompting me to give up on it when I had only read it to about page 30. The ordeal left me with a strong disliking of not just the tome itself, but the horror genre as well (my experience of said being most embryonic). Call me squeamish, but I had decided that vampires weren’t my cup of tea. This, though, is not a review of the aforementioned books, but of  The Kiss of Death.


I approached this book with an assured uncertainty. I had had bad experiences with the horror genre; however my friends asserted that this book was different, better. It is set in Venice in the early eighteenth century, and is about a boy who is on a quest to find his missing father. He is led to a glassmaker who turns out to be diseased, and so he turns to his feisty, tomboy, yet predictably beautiful daughter. She agrees to help him find his father, as she needs his father to heal her father. It however turned out to be better than expected, for a few reasons, which I shall now outline.


Firstly, and most importantly, this book was less centred around horror. Yes, there were many, powerful and underlying elements of horror, that is indubitable, but I found it to be more of an adventure story; there were even some elements of the detective genre. This was a big draw for me, for as I have outlined before, I am not a fan of horror.


However, if this was to be an adventure story, then the plot would come into play a lot more than it would have otherwise. As this book had more adventurous roots, I was most interested to see how Sedgwick had sculpted the plot. As it was, the plot panned out a lot more fluently than I had anticipated. It was sufficiently gripping, with enough going on to keep one comfortably engrossed, despite the odd page where nothing of interest happens.


I found Sedgwick’s attitude to death very interesting in this book, as he implied that it was almost like the ‘…sword of Damocles’ in that it is hanging over us wherever we are, whatever we do. He also compares death to sleep - ‘underworld of dreams’ - which was odd as sleep is essential to life (indeed in the book someone dies through lack of sleep). This comparison, while first seeming odd, appears to hold, as what is sleep but momentary death?


So far I have been painting a picture of a very enjoyable read, however as with all books, there are bad points, gripes, my first of which is that the language, especially some of the dialogue, could sometimes be blocky, scrappy. For instance, there is a passage where the boy, Marko, is talking to the girl, Sorrel:

            ‘“Sorrel,” Marko said.


            He held up the diary.

            “Your grandfather’s?”

            She nodded.

            “He was a great man.”’

These intermissions break up the flow of the story, and really serve no discernible purpose at all.


Another irritating [device] was the endless ‘cliff-hangers’. At the end of every chapter there was unfailingly a little sentence like ‘The tall dark man watched them go, then retreated back to the shadows.’ They were obviously there as a device to keep the book more gripping, however they soon became tiresome and melodramatic – ‘Sleep came quickly and easily…he was…far in the underworld of dreams. Of nightmares.’


This may have been because Sedgwick was conscious that his book needed to have a gripping plot, and so he was making extra sure that his book had ‘unputdownability’. This had a slightly weird effect on the book, as all of the action straddled two chapters, or peaked at the beginning of each chapter.


I also found that some of the language he used was a bit too middle-class. Quite apart from the fact that it is unlikely that somebody in eighteenth -century Venice would use the phrase ‘prize bi***’ I suspect that some of his language could be interpreted as being slightly uppity, which would be fine, but perhaps it would have the effect of inaccessibility.


All in all, despite a few unfavourable qualities, this book remains a laudable tome. Whilst not a reprisal of former exaltation, this was an improvement on recent novels. 


Julia, from St James Catholic High School

The Kiss Of Death is a page-turning book full of suspense and adventure. It is set in Venice, where a young girl named Sorrel is looking for a cure for her dying father Simono. But the only person able to cure him is Alessandro – Marko’s father; however the question lies where is he? …


Throughout Marko and Sorrel’s journey they unravel the weirdest stories, meet mysterious people, the most mysterious of all Peter. This man helps them escape when they get trapped, helps them through the journey, looks over 80 years old, and has the power of a 20-year-old man. There we meet the next question: what is he? …


This is an amazing book, and when I read the first chapter, I couldn’t leave it. I recommend this book for readers aged 11+ and I rate it 10/10.

Levi, from University College School London

The Kiss of Death tells a page-turning story of a curious young boy who travels to Venice in search of his missing father. He stays with a young lady who takes care of him and guides him around Venice. As the story progresses the two children become aware of each other’s issues and realise that their problems are linked. The boy’s father is a skilled doctor and is the only person with the power to save the girl’s father, who is suffering from a terrible illness. The book is an easy read yet moments do come up when you are slightly confused. For example, when Pietro turns up out of nowhere to kill the two children. As time passes their adventures become more difficult and frustrating and eventually come to a halt.


I recommend this book for children of the age of 13 and up. I feel that children under the age of 13 may find it hard to read the book as there are some complex ideas within the story. Overall though, it is a fantastic novel which I would definitely read again.

Lilly, from St James Catholic High School

The Kiss of Death is a mystery thriller. The Kiss of Death is my favourite book so far.


Things I liked about the Kiss of Death:

×     The cliff-hangers from chapter to chapter

×     The power to make you want to keep reading on

×     The storyline

×     The way the story progresses

×     All the red herrings.


There was nothing I disliked about the Kiss of Death. I would rate the book 10 out of 10 and recommend it to all my friends.

Luke, from University College School London

The Kiss of Death tells the story of Marko who receives a letter from his father and goes to Venice where his father has gone missing while visiting the Glassblower Simono Bellini. Marko meets Bellini's Daughter Sorrel and also the mysterious client Venetia.


Venice comes across as a crumbling plague-ridden city where a mysterious Society wreaks havoc throughout, uncontrolled.


Bellini's house is also being haunted and Simono is being driven mad. Sorrel's desperation for her father to be cured is well captured and her need of a hero is misplaced in Marko.


The gothic atmosphere is well done and the book manages to be genuinely creepy filled with some scary moments.


I did often feel that the book was often slightly clichéd and sometimes it does not deliver. The character of Marko is very callow and not very likeable which lets the book down. This is a disappointment as this book could have been very good.

Luke, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

The Kiss of Death starts off well and brings out a real sense of adventure, with a boy travelling to a faraway land, on his own. Another good point to this book is the ‘fairytales’. These give you a break from the main narrative. These fairytales also help to explain some of the points of the main narrative, such as the identity of the Shadow Queen and why she does what she does.


The main body of the book can become boring in parts as it is quite predictable and I probably wouldn’t read this book again as I found it quite tedious overall. 

Maryam, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The Kiss of Death is a mysterious gothic fiction, full of twists and secrets. It revolves around the two main characters, Sorrel and Marko, who are both on a dangerous quest for Marko’s father, and to save Sorrel’s father (Simono) from insanity. Together, with the mighty stranger helping them, they uncover the secrets lurking in the deep waters of Venice, and discover the link between their parents and the most dangerous queen of all time, the Shadow Queen, as they find themselves in a web of confusion and panic they have fallen into.


I personally find this book really interesting, especially because I feel the author has chosen a setting which creates a mood of horror and depression, influencing and reinforcing the scent of mystery and evil. He uses descriptive language to allow us to imagine the island which the characters are searching on… “Grey and cloudy… the buildings seemed more ghostly than ever…rising like painted drops, flat and pale”. This emphasises how artificial and gloomy the islands are, and adds to the mood of danger and insecurity.


I feel that Sorrel, one of the main characters, is probably my favourite character, as at first we believe she is a cruel person, filled with hatred. We see this when she says: “I told him to hurry up so that the little boy didn’t get scared”, but as we discover how desperate she is, and how worried she is that her insane father might die, we begin to interpret her feelings differently. Moreover, we begin to see a gradual change in her personality, from a hopeless, uncaring girl to one who began to love and see hope in the future.


The writer uses many different techniques to add effect to the story. One technique he uses is entwining two stories together, which at first I thought had no relation to each other whatsoever. However, at the end of the fairy tale which was twisted into the novel, we realise who the princess talked about really is, and how she became the feared villain in the story we read about.


Another technique the author uses is ending and beginning the story with the same phrase: “In Venice, death comes by water”. I think he does this at first to grip the reader’s attention, and attract their curiosity. At the end, after we have exposed the secrets, and the words are repeated at the end, we begin to understand the meaning of these words and how many have suffered and died in the marshy waters of Venice.


My feelings changed throughout the story - there were many points where I was confused, and did not understand what was occurring, or who some of the characters were, which I believe was a setback. However, the story was still very powerful, and gradually explained and answered the questions which ran through my mind. At many parts of the book, I felt suspense, as the book was organized to be fast-moving and quick, where the reader raced along the lines to discover what happened next.



In my opinion, the book is unique, and has its own magical style. It is written in a very sophisticated manner, with twists and turns, and using Venice as a backdrop makes the story seem real in our minds. I would recommend it, but I feel it would be quite confusing for children aged 11 and under; it has a befuddling plot, which is why I believe it is more suitable for older readers.

Michelle, from St James Catholic High School

Before I read this book, I knew that I would like it because it was about vampires, and I love vampires - reading about them that is. I was intrigued by the quote on the back of the book, ‘Death comes in many forms, but in Venice death comes by water..’, a sentence that the book begins and ends with.  I particularly liked that, as it answered my question, what did that quote mean?


I also loved the setting in Venice, because it complements the supernatural theme. I loved all the characters as they were all so unique, but I think my favourite has to be Sorrel because she was so mysterious and you always wanted to know more about her. She seemed to be hiding something and would not open up to anyone, except to Marko a few times. Sorrel is very strong in personality, physicality and emotion.


I enjoyed the short fairytales after every twelve or so chapters and what I would like to know is, is the youngest princess in the tale the Shadow Queen?


I think this book is aimed at teenagers and young adults, but I still enjoyed it and I’ve one more year before becoming a teenager.


Overall Kiss of Death is one of the top twelve books that I have ever read. 

Michelle, from St James Catholic High School

The book is a page-turning book full of suspense and mystery. It is set in the 18th-century in the land of terror, Venice. Under the cover of the shadows crawl many bad things. The whole story is set on water land.


A young girl called Sorrel sends a letter to Marko’s family asking for help in finding Marko’s father, Alessandro. Sorrel was keen to find Alesandro, as he was working on a cure for her dad, Simono’s, illness. Marko’s father had gone missing from the day he set off with Simono. Sorrel and Marko live through scenes of adventure and horror as they discover the Land’s secrets and meet people they never thought were alive.


This book was fantastic! 10/10

Mona, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

The Kiss of Death is a book about a boy on a quest to find his father, but as he goes to Venice to meet a girl called Sorrel, who can apparently help him on his journey, things change very dramatically. Throughout the journey these two learn a lot of things about each other. Perhaps things they didn't even know themselves.


I enjoyed The Kiss of Death very much. I particularly enjoyed the introductory letter. How it draws the reader in, and makes them ask questions and read on. I think there were times where I got a bit bored, but soon there was some action which drew me in all over again. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend above the age of thirteen!

Olivia, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The Kiss of Death is about a boy called Marko, who receives a letter from someone who seems to be one of his lost father’s friends, asking for help. He finds that it was sent by the friend’s daughter, Sorrel, and they then set out on an adventure to find Marko’s lost father, who has disappeared. It turns out that Sorrel is helping Marko as her father seems to have gone mad, and so she hopes Marko’s father can help. Along the way they meet Peter who helps them both.


I found this to be an interesting yet unusual plot, as on the way they meet vampires and other strange things. Another reason why it was an unusual plot was due to Sorrel not being the sort of girl you would expect in the average book, due to her seeming depressed and having kohl almost always around her eyes. 


The main characters, Marko and Sorrel, aren’t described in great detail, but just enough so you get to know them and are able to imagine them, still with some of your own imagination rather than all of the author’s. I find this to be an effective way for them to be described: Sorrel seems to have more description than Marko in some ways, as you seem to find out more about what Sorrel looks like, while with Marko you don’t really know what he looks like as much as Sorrel.


The story is written in the third person, which is effective as you can find out about all the characters rather than just what one is like. The author lets you use your imagination to imagine things around the characters well, which I found effective.


Overall I think it was a good book, except I found that the start was boring-ish, in the sense that it moved slowly, and wasn’t stopping you from putting it down. That was pretty much the only bad thing about the book, apart from maybe it could have had a longer story line and made more happen as it seemed a bit like the author had rushed the end, causing things at the end to happen quickly and not have as much quality in the writing compared to other parts of the story. Maybe the author could have spoken a bit more about vampires, as you don’t find out that much about them, but this might be due to it being a follow-on to My Swordhand is Singing.


So really I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are looking for a book just about vampires, but to people who can get into a book and keep reading. I thought this was going to be a boring book, but the story itself proved me wrong.

Raphael, from University College School London

This novel, set in eighteenth-century Venice, is about a young boy named Marko, who is from outside Venice, trying to find his father, who had gone missing whilst in the city some days earlier. During his time there, Marko meets new people, friends and enemies, and uncovers some dark and mysterious happenings, all leading to the ‘Shadow Queen’, and his mission is changed so that it is not just about finding his father.


For the first two-thirds of the book, one is hooked into the plot, as there are various occurrences that make the reader want to know more. However, towards the end, it all becomes rather too fantastical – the Shadow Queen is brought out of the darkness to the centre of attention. To add to this, she has a clan of pretend vampires with poisonous ‘fangs’ made of glass. The clan of ‘Vampyri’ are people whose souls have been stolen by the Shadow Queen. All of this makes an anti-climax at the end with a very weak twist to the tale. Sedgwick did not ruin the book by doing this, but it certainly does seem like he could have improved the ending.


On the other hand, the characters are very well portrayed, without extensive descriptions. Marko is a country boy who is doing his very best to cope in the city, but has to rely on the help of Sorrel, a Venetian girl, the daughter of Simono Bellini, who went missing with Marko’s father, but was found and has gone insane. Sorrel is seen by Marko as ‘the girl who never smiles’, as she has rather a negative outlook on everything. Marko and Sorrel embark on their journey to find Marko’s father together, but, just before the fantasy section begins, they meet Peter, a man of at least one hundred and thirty years old, but still an agile swordsman. It is not because of his introduction that the storyline falters, although it would be impossible for him to exist. It is a shame, in fact, that he is not involved earlier in the story, as he is definitely a beneficial addition to the novel.


Although it does have some weak sections, the plot is quite well sustained and the book on the whole is very well written and full of detail. Even though it is badly concluded, the plot can be gripping, and is for the majority of the book.

Raphael, from University College School London

I think Kiss of Death is a very well-written and enjoyable book. It carries on from My Swordhand is Singing. It is quite a sinister and exciting book about 'hostages',  better known as vampires.


The main characters in the book are Marko and Sorrel. They know nothing about each other except that they need find Marko’s father to cure Sorrel’s father who has become demented. But nothing is what it seems and anyone could be possessed or even be the living dead. In this book Peter, from My Swordhand Is Singing, finally finds his target… the Shadow Queen, it is she who is causing all the trouble with the vampires.


Peter returns in this book, this time he is a much older person, or at least he should be. No one is sure what he is, as no one should be his age, nor should they look a hundred years younger. All they know is, he has an indestructible and unique sword.  Marko is still a teenager yet he has to find his father and save Venice, with the help of Sorrel, a depressed teen who has a story to tell that could even scare adults.


I would recommend Kiss of Death to everyone as it combines action and thriller, two teens on an adventure and leaves the cliché part behind.



Rufus, from University College School London

“Death comes in many forms, but in Venice death comes by water...”


The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick, and the sequel to My Swordhand is Singing, is based in 18th Century Venice, and follows the story of a young boy called Marco, who is searching for his father who has gone missing. Soon enough, old adversaries emerge.


Venice. It's the perfect place to hoard secrets. Here the Shadow Queen has her lair, and here she'll gather her forces for a final battle.


Marko and Sorrel are unwitting players in her ‘Last Act’ as they search for his father, and try to stop the madness claiming hers. In the dark alleyways, on silvery waterways slivers the light lance of the lagoon mist, the mystery deepens.


Sam, from University College School London

Kiss of Death is a Novel set in 18th-century Venice. The protagonist is a boy called Marco who comes  from a small Italian town to search for his father in Venice. He meets a girl called Sorrel whose father has also gone missing while looking for a cure to a strange illness. As they both set off to look for their fathers they come ever closer to discovering a terrifying secret about the rich and influential of Venice.


When read, the book seems somewhat slower paced than my description of it. The characters are also somewhat two-dimensional. I give it 5 out of 10.

Samantha, from St James Catholic High School

The Kiss of Death was the first book from the list that I read. It is set in 18th-century Venice when the streets are swamped with plagues.


The book begins with a letter written by the father of one of the main characters, Marko. The letter prompts Marko to travel to Venice in search of his father. There he meets Sorrel and they begin a journey to find Marko’s father and a cure for Sorrel’s father. Their journey causes them to meet many strange characters.


I loved the setting and Marcus Sedgwick’s attention to detail. 8/10

Savana, from St James Catholic High School

The Kiss of Death is a story set around a young man called Marko, who receives a letter written in his absent father’s handwriting. The address is unknown but the letter is full of hate. Marko leaves his homeland, his mother and family to search for his father. He travels to Venice where his father had gone missing whilst visiting a glassmaker called Simono Bellini.


In Venice, Marko meets Bellini’s daughter, Sorrel, who needs help with her father who is driven mad by his inability to sleep. Marko and Sorrel go in search of Marko’s dad who may be able to help Sorrel’s father.


On their journey the meet new characters with strange V-shaped marks on their necks. They also meet Peter who is in search of the Shadow Queen. As they search they are caught up in the battle for power between good and evil.


I think this is an excellent teenage read. I couldn’t put it down.

Seeta, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Eighteenth century Venice - dark, dangerous and deceptive. Marko is looking for his father and Sorrel is trying to save hers from the brink of madness. However, there are higher forces at work and they are both in danger from the mysterious Shadow Queen. Are there really Vampires?


There are a few messages in the book which are a bit like morals: like selfishness is bad, and don’t judge something or someone from their appearance which can work both ways. In the book it says that ‘there are nought but wicked men in the whole of this wide world’. I thought about this for a while and understood how it could be seen to be true, but I disagreed. Some characters in the book are worse than others but most people aren’t just good or bad, they are a mix. I think that this was one of the main themes or ideas of the book - evil can be anywhere but it can be fought.



The dramatic ending to the story was fitting to the rest of the book and I liked it a lot. The author also used good description. The story was a surprise as the blurb didn’t tell me much, but the mysterious beginning drew me in as I wanted to know more. I might not have read the book or found it as the cover is not very colourful but it suits the mood of the story and the story is great once you get into it.



How does this book compare to others? This book features vampires. There have been many different portrayals of vampires over time and more recent ones tend to be slightly different from the classic vampire. However, the ‘vampires’ in this book are completely different and original (from the vampires in books I have read). The story surrounding these vampires is quite clever: it ties in with the rest of the book and solves some mysteries from earlier in the story.



The Kiss of Death is a story of love and of Venice. This book is suitable for 12+ because of some of the themes. I would recommend it, especially to people who like mystery stories with a darker edge. 

Sophia, from St James Catholic High School

The Kiss of Death was a very interesting book full of adventure: a book with good parts but also bad parts all mixed together.


This book was gruesome in the middle when the priest and the glass maker try to harm the two children, who are the main characters.


This book had an effect on me, so much so that at one point I started reading at night and I got scared and hid under my cover in horror.


It was fantastic, full of mystery and wonder.


I would recommend this book to whoever likes a good scare and a good adventure. I think this book deserves 9/10 because it was a bit too scary for me.   

Steffy, from St James Catholic High School

Marko's father, a doctor, has gone missing, and a mysterious and menacing letter convinces the young boy that he should travel to Venice to search for him. Once there, he finds Sorrel, whose father was Marko's father's patient. Sorrel is as determined to find the cause of her father's horrible illness as Marko is to find his father. The children however couldn't be more different. Marko has natural optimism, and the lessons learned as his father's dispensing assistant give him a logical and enquiring mind. Sorrel, on the other hand, is superstitious and given to gloom.



But it soon transpires that they'll need all their wits about them if they are to tackle and defeat the menace that lies behind the beauty and glamour of the city of canals.



I liked this book very much and I would rate this book 7.5 out of 10.

Teddie, from University College School London

This gothic vampire novel is set in Venice in the 18th century. It describes the journey of two teenagers longing to find their fathers. Every clue leads to another and another clue as the plights of their fathers become more familiar and comprehensible. Along their voyage across Venice and through the dark alleyways and canals, they come across hurdles of people standing in their way. However aside from the two, Sorrel and Marko, a saviour is not far behind them.


Marko has set voyage on a ship to Venice as he received a letter from his father’s friend, explaining that his father has gone missing. Marko’s father had been in Venice as he was a doctor and was treating his old friend. On first arriving in Venice, he discovers it was the man’s daughter who had sent the letter as she was desperately in need of help. Her father is not far from his deathbed and Marko’s father is the only man that could save him.


They struggle but never give up. Is there a cure for this horrific disease that was depriving him of sleep or was it the end for Sorrel’s father? Marko and Sorrel fall into traps from time to time in their investigation. Running into people who were hiding behind false identities…Vampires! To the great advantage of the helpless teenagers, one man is always behind them… This man is Peter, a Vampire slayer who has lived for over 150 years, getting younger and more powerful as he defeats more vampires with his slaying sword. His aim is as it has been for his whole life - to destroy the vampire population and graciously defeat their leader, The Shadow Queen. Can he fight for freedom and save Sorrel’s father?


This page turner is a novel that you become apart of. It is immensely entertaining and has exactly the right balance of horror and action. This novel guarantees to make you sweat and at parts pull shaken faces. I also thought that the detailed descriptions and precise word choice in this novel were fantastic – every word chosen with great thought! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a thrill and is prepared for an investigation.


“Death comes in many forms, but in Venice death comes by water…”

Tom, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

Kiss of Death is a brilliant story about a guy called Marko who has lost his dad in Venice. Along the way he meets a girl called Sorrel who accompanies him on his journey but she has her own problems too.  They have a tough time in Venice but do eventually pull through.


Marcus Sedgwick definitely knows how to write a lean, mean, reading machine.

Zoe, from The Thomas Hardye School Dorchester

I was told The Kiss of Death was a vampire book and was not looking forward to reading it because I thought it would be very gory. Once I started it though I couldn’t put it down and I forgot all about it containing vampires. When I got to the middle of the book I was still asking myself, “where are the vampires?” which is of course what kept me reading. It is about Marko coming over to Venice to help find his father. Sorrel, daughter of the patient Marko’s father was treating, is desperate to find him to save her father from madness taking over him.


They started their epic journey in a glass-maker’s shop and action happens every corner they turn. They are saved from death twice by a man they say is immortal and who is also a complete stranger. The novel keeps you hooked the whole way through with small but powerful questions.