Read Touched by Venom by Janine Cross Online


Like her half-breed mother, young Zarq Darquel can't always hold her tongue. A peasant on a large dragon estate, she goes unnoticed by the Temple of the Dragon - until she accidentally captures the attention of an eccentric and dangerous dragonmaster, unleashing a storm of tragedy. Her clan is plunged into destitution, her beautiful sister, Waivia, sold into slavery, and hLike her half-breed mother, young Zarq Darquel can't always hold her tongue. A peasant on a large dragon estate, she goes unnoticed by the Temple of the Dragon - until she accidentally captures the attention of an eccentric and dangerous dragonmaster, unleashing a storm of tragedy. Her clan is plunged into destitution, her beautiful sister, Waivia, sold into slavery, and her mother lost to madness....

Title : Touched by Venom
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780451460790
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Touched by Venom Reviews

  • Kelly
    2019-02-20 20:51

    I've been tempted by Touched by Venom for a long time. The cover art is sensual; the blurb is intriguing and contains a promising quote by Jacqueline Carey, one of my favorite authors. Something held me off, though, until recently, but I finally broke down and bought Touched by Venom used. First of all...yowza. I thought I was into dark fantasy. Little did I know, compared to Touched by Venom, pretty much everything I've ever read is all rainbows and unicorns. This is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Janine Cross doesn't shy away from the grit of a peasant's life (brutality, disease, excrement...) or from the scourges of racism, sexism, and classism. Our heroine, Zarq, is on the wrong end of all three of these bigotries and so her life is difficult in the extreme. Readers may be particularly disturbed by the inclusion of female circumcision in Touched by Venom. There is also bestiality in this novel. I'm not going to bash Cross for including atrocities in her novel; after all, with the obvious exception of dragon bestiality, all of these horrors have occurred in humanity's past, and many are still occurring today. I do think the story would have been better had it included any sort of brightness, any sort of tenderness between the characters, anything to break up the relentless parade of brutality. Some reviews have compared Touched by Venom to Anne Bishop's BLACK JEWELS series. I disagree; BLACK JEWELS had humor, romance, and friendship. If this is similar to any of Bishop's work, it's her Match Girl short story, which focused on the tortures inflicted on suspected witches during the "Burning Times." I also believe that Touched by Venom could have been paced better and/or the heroine made more dynamic. Zarq spends the first half of the novel as a small child; all of her decisions are made for her by others. Even after she grows to late adolescence, Zarq seldom makes a choice of her own, instead being buffeted along by the will of others. It's only after page 300 that she really starts acting of her own volition (the book is less than 400 pages long, by the way). And even when she does, she does it in such a thoughtless way and makes such a botch of it that I don't have much sympathy for her. It may be "realistic" that a society as oppressive as this one would produce citizens as passive as Zarq. However, that doesn't necessarily make for the best story. Fantasy works best, in my opinion, when the main character has spirit and courage beyond the ordinary. The character doesn't have to be perfect — in fact, it's often more compelling when s/he's a flawed person with a humble background — but s/he needs to be the kind of person who writes his or her own destiny. I've heard that Zarq begins to defy the powers-that-be in the two sequels to Touched by Venom. Unfortunately, this book doesn't exactly inspire me to reach for the others. I may end up giving them a try eventually, as Cross's prose is competent, but for now, I think I'm going to take my leave of Zarq Darquel.Read this and other Janine Cross reviews at!

  • Sadie Forsythe
    2019-02-25 00:32

    Good lord, this one keeps you wanting. It's beautifully written, seriously intense, harrowing, with amazing world-building and an admirable, strong heroine. But it moves at the speed of molasses. I mean it's slooooow. Seriously, the first 50% of the book covers Zarq's life as a 9-year-old. The next 40% is age 10-17 and a whole heck of a lot of hard living and sacrifice. The next 8% shows her coming to grips with her situation and in the last 2% something finally happens. Yep, all that social revolution stuff hinted at in the book blurb happens in the last pages...THE LAST PAGES...and then, and THEN holy hotcakes, Batman, it's a big ol', rage-inducing cliffhanger. Grrrr!! I have all three books in this series and spent most of this book thinking I wouldn't bother with the second and third. I mean, even though it really is an astonishing piece of writing, it's also a major downer. As and example, at one point the fallout of the actions of one 9-year-old boy destroys the lives and livelihoods of an entire village, with devastating, irreversible, long lasting affects. Honestly, what do you do with that? This is not a book to pick up for the feel-good factor. There isn't any. But, that last 10% gives me hope that the plot might FINALLY be picking up and I'll see where book two goes. Ms. Cross can string a tale, she can weave atmosphere, she can bring you to tears—laughter maybe not so much, but heart-rending agony, sure—and she can create a believable fantasy world. Worth reading.

  • Eva Folsom
    2019-03-16 19:30

    I got this book because I heard how one of the Tiptree judges took a strong stand about nominating this book, and how all the other judges vehemently opposed it. I can really see both sides.My favorite thing about this book as how clearly it illustrates how the religion and worldview embraced by the people of a country shape every aspect of the society, from the political system to family dynamics, even for people who don't personally believe in the religion. The book also does a great job of showing the dangers of religious authoritarianism.I also like how Cross engages with important feminist issues, such as economic, social, and sexual agency for women, and clearly illustrates how the culture one is born into shapes such things. It is perfectly clear in this world that women can't just "stop making themselves into victims" and be fine.What bugged me about the book is how over-the-top The Patriarchy is in this world. It makes it too easy for the reader to just shudder and say, "Well, thank goodness I live in a more enlightened society." Tying patriarchial power structures to such a fantastical world almost denies the existence of much subtler power structures in the real world.

  • Stacey
    2019-03-15 00:49

    This book was terrible, which I don't understand because I read such good reviews about it. Why I hated it had nothing to do with the female mutilation or the bestiality, it was just a dumb book. Smart, strong women do not end up in situations like the ones depicted in this book, no matter what world or time it is. I finished this book, but only because I never leave a book unfinished. I thought this was an awful addition to the fantsy genre.

  • Nerissa
    2019-03-15 01:53

    This has got to be the absolute worst book I have ever had the misfortune to read. It was a journey through pure misery compounded by more misery with a bit of sexual perversion thrown in. I will never waste my time by reading the rest of the series.

  • Liz
    2019-02-20 01:53

    Do not mock the venom cock!

  • Johnny Hazelnut
    2019-02-25 22:35

    Is a fantasy novel by a certain Janine Cross which first appeared in 2005 and would have sunk without a trace but for the internets picking up on it as a prime example of awful, awful literature. However I only learnt about it recently through the "So Bad It's Horrible" pages on TV Tropes. And to be fair, the premise didn't sound all that hopeless when I heard about it, that is, thud and blunder from the female perspective. But I was assured otherwise.I though I'd best review it then. At least it wasn't more teen romance drivel or shite erotica, I thought. But I was soon to find that this is a bad idea...Executive SummaryVenom-Cocked Dragon Worshippers of Gor, more like.A bit more detail, if you don't mind?The first thing I noticed about this novel, apart from the venom cock, was that every single character had a name that could only have come about as a result of tits on a keyboard. Okay, it wasn't quite as bad as The Eye of Argon, no Grignrs or Mrifks here. But it's not far off. The protagonist is a young girl named Zarq. Which is a swearword in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, isn't it. She has an elder sister called Waivia or Waisi and is a member of Clutch Re, a tribe that seems vaguely African in inspiration (reading between the lines) which worships dragons, for some reason. There's a secondary character called Xxef-Keau also, and another called Nnp-trn.The second thing I noticed about it was that this worship of dragons doesn't stop the members of her tribe using the flesh and eggs and skin of dragons for all manner of mundane uses. Isn't this slightly like a Catholic priest serving communion wine in the local pub after the services? Or the Ayatollah using a Qur'an for bog paper? Or a Hindu chowing down on a Double Whopper? Am I missing something here? I must be, because this makes no sense.Anyhow, she's really close to her sister, and is rather nonplussed when the elder sister, who is meant to be very attractive, gets sold into sex slavery, or, in the impenetrable parlance of the books, a kiyu. We're told that "kiyu" is also the word in the protagonist's language for a horrible smell, and is applied to sex slaves because after years of service, the smell of stale semen, pus, blood, and suchlike constantly emanates from between their legs, causing all around them to pinch their noses and go, "kii-yuuuuu!"I swear to all the gods I am not making this up. Thanks, Zarq. We really didn't need to know that.Anyhow, Zarq ends up being taken into service in a dragon temple and is circumcised. We're treated to a lengthy scene of her infibulation. Oh joy. But this isn't all, she ends up being subjected to sex slavery as well, despite having had the appropriate parts to carry out said duties hacked off. But not to worry, she enjoys it anyhow. Nice going, Janine. You fail female genital mutilation forever. But nevertheless, this fearless noder carried on, trawling through the incessant, incessant scenes where Zarq the newly infibulated draconic handmaiden learns the care and feeding of dragons. We're treated to exceptionally dull scene after exceptionally dull scene in which we're told all about this and the many uses of dragon venom. Apparently, it burns up your insides, is an anaesthetic, and is addictive. There seems to be some sort of a plot but I can't work out what it is, suffice to say, the heroine ends up addicted to venom and suchlike, and ends up whoring herself out for it. I don't bloody know.Basically, it's a fantastical misery memoir, isn't it.The author also seems to suffer from terribly purple prose as well. Every sentence drips with modifiers. Here's a line I pulled up at random:"I launched myself toward the wheaten-haired person draped in porphyry and emerald silks upon the overstuffed carriage seats within. He turned in a miasma of alcohol and perfume and grilled meat, and as his eyes widened and his mouth opened, my machete slashed forward, across his long, golden neck, but my shroud, my makmaki shroud that had protected me and camouflaged me thus far, hindered my wild slash, and my blade slashed not across his throat but across one smooth, rounded shoulder, and as the momentum of my strike carried me forward and I fell against the person I would have killed, I realized it was not Kratt, was not even a man."I'm sure that there's way too many adjectives in here. Let's have a little style class, children. Adjectives are to be used sparingly. Adverbs even more so. Similarly, humping a thesaurus is not fun for your reader. I'm sure that if I'd written that I'd have cut it down to half its size. Especially action sequences like that, you don't overstuff with adjectives because it ruins the flow and makes what was a quick, fast action bit all sluggish. While she was describing the irrelevant interior of the carriage her victim would no doubt have dodged out the way or otherwise run for it. Similarly, by loading everything with constant florid description the author only serves to bloat the novel and make you wonder what is going on.And what is going on, because at the end, the book suddenly... stops. It ends with Zarq revealed as a girl (which is a Big Deal in the plot as only men are allowed to do what she was doing), and about to be whipped, and her craving her next fix of venom. And then we're treated to a big advert for the sequel.But you don't care about that, do you. You're still wondering what a venom cock is, aren't you. After all, the reason this novel became a snark object on the internets was because of the venom cock. Righty ho then. Here goes. Well, you asked for it..."'Lookit the thize of that one!' he bellowed. 'That'th a cock, hey-o!' He tugged on his own little thing beneath his dirty loincloth. A venom cock, they're called. I'd heard the words grunted respectfully among pottery clan men. I'd also heard the words mentioned by women wearing a carefully blank expression cultivated to hide opinion. Understand, women do not revere the venom cock as men do. They see it for what it is: an uncontrollable reaction to an impending event, and a slightly foolish reaction at that. Dono's reverence was a mystery to me back then, made all the more mysterious by his assertions about what a venom cock could do: slay a woman! Cripple a baby! Turn pleasurers into deaf, blind, barren idiots!"Good night.(originally written for

  • Trixie Fontaine
    2019-03-01 22:45

    Don't let the cheesy, ridiculous cover art fool you -- this is dark, well-crafted, thoroughly unromantic stuff. The only problem I had with it is how unrelentingly depressing it is -- sort of like the first grueling half-plus of Jane Eyre set in a different, more horrifying world where Rochester is a dragon she wants to fuck. Or something.I actually changed my rating from three stars to five after reading other people's bad ratings and reviews -- they're really selling short an intense, exquisitely-detailed, and daring book. So was I until my sister (who read ALL of the books in the series) challenged me on it and told me how rad the rest of the are.The cover art is a ridiculous misrepresentation of the content and probably draws people to it who desire something entirely different and floofier than what it contains. There are many good reasons why this book was an award-winner. Don't overlook it based on bad ratings/reviews and stupid cover art.

  • Hearts
    2019-02-24 20:47

    So many issues here. Slow plodding painful story progression. Yes this book covers about 10 yrs of Zarq's life but it's slow and overly detailed to the Nth degree. In most fantasy books you do the heavy lifting with world building at the start but your perseverance pays off and by the time you're 1/3 of the way through you're acclimated. Not so with this one. The combination of made up vocabulary with obscure English words for things made reading this book choppy and painful, the reader is continually pulled out of the story. I am pretty well read and have a sizable vocabulary and this author constantly used English words I had never heard before. While I'm not apposed to learning some obscure English words for things, the author makes it impossible to learn them as she only uses them once or twice and then moves on. So it's not like she's using these obscure words repeatedly, she uses them a couple times for a specific situation and then moves on. Combine that with her made up vocabulary and I was never sure when to use the kindle dictionary feature to see if it was a real word or made up word. So so so frustrating!!!Yes, this is a dark disturbing book and that was an issue for me too though mostly because I know the abuse and depravity is just getting started. I don't care enough about Zarq or this story to do the heavy lifting of plodding through 2 more books. It is a close call but ultimately I wasn't enjoying myself enough to endure this author's writing style.

  • Anberlin
    2019-02-19 18:28

    As part of my 'to read list' covers the theme of dragons and fantasy, I ultimately stumbled upon this book and was intrigued by the contrasting reviews it received.I would never have picked up this book in the past, ever since that traumatizing episode with the Black Jewels trilogy which I think I wasn't 'old' enough to read yet, considering what goes on in this book is just as dark, disgusting, disturbing yet horrifying in a way you can't rip your eyes away from. It confronts you that such brutal things do happen in real life, and that such reality is inescapable sometimes and this is where I suppose the 'realness' of it can turn off readers.First of all, you have to know that the book cover you're looking at there? If you're hoping for some cool, sensual, mature heroine in a typical fantasy PNR with a happy ending or beginning, this book is not that. You're hoping for some dragon taming and young lady overpowering her situation to achieve greatness and finding love and friendship along the way? Hah, that's what I thought so too. I think that another reason why the book sets up for the disappointed reviews is because of the illusion of the cover. I have to admit I do judge books by their covers and no matter how many times I've been burnt, I just don't learn. So, to give you a rough image of the story, the cover of the book should have been some young girl child or village shrouded in a much darker, grimmer setting with the dragon in the background instead of the foreground.The story starts off with this 9 year old girl who's given a boy's name - Zarq. Yep, people, she's NINE, you read that right. As for the writing, I wouldn't call it bad like what other readers have said, I think it's pretty good actually, once you get past the difficulty of trying to read it fast. It's ornate, richly detailed, steeped in the smells and scenery and culture that the author has created, and raw with gritty emotion. I felt like I was looking through the eyes of little Zarq, that's the feeling it gave me, richly realistic. When you read, you can almost feel the clamouring, sweaty heat of the crowds in the market jostling to see the dragon, hear the oily, sinuous crack of the venom tainted whip, and know what it's like living as a claymaker's youngest daughter in a house busy with the thudding sounds of soft clay being molded into intricate works of art. The only thing bad is that you have to read kind of slow to get everything or else it all becomes a tedious jumble of words.Zarq encounters the dragonmaster for the first time and is both appalled and intrigued by the selection of dragonmaster apprentices. She later on learns that her mother is of the same outcast race as the dragonmaster – Djimbi, a race of jungle tribe people who are known for their mottled green and brown skins and unorthodox ways. Her father is an average man of few words but loving towards his wife and children. Waivia, or Waisi, is Zarq’s older sister and only other sibling in the family. She’s described to be a haughty, beautiful girl who’s determined to escape the rural life and become an ebani, which is a rich concubine or geisha of sorts to the aristocrats. Zarq’s mother, however, is the one whom Zarq shares the closest relationship with and later on also the most damaging.The book drags on awhile, twisting and turning through the politics and authoritarian-like culture with the Temple laying down all its rules and traditions, somewhat similar to medieval life where the church’s power is unquestionable and women are seen as second and lowly to man. The main plot only happens when Waivia gets traded to another family due to dire circumstances and her mother descends into a mad woman’s rage and desperation to win back the affections of her daughter and to buy her back. She behaves as only a true mother would when her flesh and blood is taken away from her by force, yet this takes a toll on 9 year old Zarq who has to shoulder her mother’s burden and watch her wither away to madness. Things only get worse when her mother learns of Waivia being sold to slavery and from there on it is all a downward spiral into tragic loss and despair.All in all, the book is not pretty, it is not nice or funny and there is nothing mild about it. What you see is not what you get with the cover but what you do get is this Pandora’s Box of dark wonders filled with all sorts of grim and raw recounts from Zarq. At the end of it what you get is a spark of ‘life’, I wouldn’t call it ‘hope’ exactly as this is not your typical fantasy fairytale, it’s far too base to be that, it’s more like the fight you see in a cornered dog’s eyes, what you see when an average person is dealt a bad hand in life and suffers as a result of that, all the while still madly surviving. I feel that Zarq isn’t a heroine or anti-heroine, just a little girl growing up in the oppressive culture of her world too fast with the shadow of her mother upon her back who is discovering all the ‘wrong’ things and bad things in life and discovering what she wants to do and be. She’s just there to tell a story, her story. The only thing that irked me was how she didn’t seem to want to go search for her sister by herself until I realized that she doesn’t love her sister as much as her mother, and her dear mother’s obsession with her sister is what probably pushes and tears and pulls her all at once into the mess she is.The themes in the book are indeed unacceptable, gruesome and dark as compared to our first world societies and morality, however, bearing in mind that this is a twisted fantasy society we’re talking about, whatever they do is not so different from what is committed in our world. Art can be ugly too, but in its ugliness there’s a truthful kind of rawness, a beastly, necessary sort of morbid beauty, and all I can say is I caught a glimpse of that offered in this book so it’s worth giving it a shot.

  • Alyssia
    2019-02-26 01:47

    For the series: Incredibly dark, complex, as far from young adult fantasies as you can get. Bits of bestiality but it serves a purpose. Your vocabulary will grow; I needed a dictionary a few times. I'm glad I read it but it was so heavy, I might need some fluff to chill out with.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-22 20:43

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I am shallow… when it comes to book covers. I will judge a book by its cover and whether or not I like the cover carries a lot of weight on whether or not I’ll give the book a chance. In this particular instance, I thought the cover was cheesy and not something I’d read. Until I saw right on the front cover five little words above the authors’ name: “Compelling, and harrowing,” – Jacqueline Carey. If Carey can give a book that kind of review, then I can look past a cheesy cover. The story is narrated by the main character, a girl named Zarq. You’re given the impression that Zarq is telling the story when she is much older and reflecting back on these events in her life as a way of explaining how she became who she is today (which you never find out because this book is the first of a saga and ends abruptly). The tone is at times slightly bitter but always reflective. Never apologetic. She is just trying to tell her story. When the story opens, Zarq is nine years old and lives with her mother, father, and older sister in a village on a large dragon estate, or Clutch. Despite the back-breaking work of living as one of the poorest members of the Clutch, Zarq is a typical nine year-old. She plays with her friends, gets bored in Temple, has spats with her sister, and is devoted to her parents. Especially her mother. It is during this time that a series of events take place that forever changes the life of Zarq and her family. Each estate is allowed one male dragon and it is the job of a Dragon Master and his apprentices to care for this dragon and train it. The male dragons are the pride of every estate and Dragon Masters are revered as holy. During the annual festival of Mombe Taro when new apprentices are chosen and whipped into the order in front of the whole estate a series of events are started all due to the fateful meeting of Zarq and the Dragon Master. I don’t want to give away anything of the story because it is truly brilliant and worth reading on your own. But, I would like to point out a few interesting elements of the story that surprised me. First of all the heroine, Zarq, is not like any heroine I’ve ever encountered. Usually the heroine undergoes an epic struggle yet uses her wits and strong character to prevail. This book spans the years of her life from nine through seventeen. Zarq is a child. She makes decisions like a child. She’s selfish to a certain degree and oblivious to the bigger picture around her. When she takes action it usually ends up failing and hurting the people around her. She’s tormented by an addiction and haunted by the ghost of her past. You want to love this broken, abandoned child but at the same time you want to shake her teeth out.Her mother is another interesting element in the story. Zarq’s mother is a Djimba – a woman with mottled brown and green skin that can use magic for both good and bad. Not only are Djimba dirty and lower than low, but they are feared for their sorcery. Zarq’s mother comes to the Clutch as a sixteen year old slave. Zarq’s father is instantly in love with her and claims her as his “Garden of Children” and together they raise a family. Through-out the story you both admire and hate Zarq’s mother. She is obviously more concerned with her eldest daughter than she is with Zarq and a lot of the pain and heartbreak in Zarq’s life can be blamed on her mother’s decisions. She is a character that you love to hate. You can empathize with her actions, but at the same time it is difficult to watch where she leads her youngest daughter.The most personal element of this book for me is the first half or so of the book when Zarq is just nine years old and dealing with everything that is going on. In one scene, she refused to leave her mother who has been badly injured and stays with her for four days in a cramped latrine and then makes the decision to be banished along with her. In another scene she is refusing to listen to the other women and gets everyone in trouble because she won’t leave her mother’s side. It hit a personal note with me because my son is about to turn nine. The author captured that element of a child so perfectly in Zarq’s actions, thoughts, and decision that it was hard to read at times because I could see my own child acting in exactly that manner. It made the story more real for me. Later the narrator is describing a scene where Zarq makes yet another ill-fated decision and she says, as if in a half-hearted apology, “What would you have done at sixteen?” And it just reinforces that this child is not only broken, but also a child. A child that has been dealt an incredibly tragic hand. Touched by Venom is intense. It sticks with you like a dirty film on your teeth. It holds you captive from the first line until the last word. Excellent book.

  • Raechel
    2019-02-25 17:45

    Based on what I had heard about it and some of the reviews I glanced over, I anticipated giving Touched by Venom one star because that's the lowest available rating. But I said I'd read it, so I read it. And I liked it more than I thought I would, especially if I overlook some of its more glaring literary sins. The world itself reminds me a LOT of Ricardo Pinto's The Stone Dance of the Chameleon trilogy, so if you like that you should read this one, and vice versa.Touched by Venom follows the story of a young girl named Zarq who lives a very hard life. The culture she lives in is a caste system, and her and her family (and their pottery clan) are among the lowest level. Everyone sees dragons as divine, and worships them. Zarq eventually has to travel with her mother after her family is ripped apart, and try to make her way in the brutal world, get revenge, and figure out what she wants to do with her life.Themes: Drug Use, Family Loyalty, and PTSD (Zarq's and mine after reading this book)The Good:Fantastic world-building. It's obvious this is a brutal world, especially for those on the lower castes, and women in general. Zarq very clearly has PTSD and is haunted (in more ways than one) by her mother's obsession with (view spoiler)[finding her sister Waivia. (hide spoiler)] So she uses drugs to cope, not uncommon in the real world and was interesting to see used in a fantasy novel.The Bad:Oh child. There was some bad things in here, and not just the...keen interest in dragons. 1) Zarq has been on the verge of starvation all her life, has her hair cut like a boy's, no breasts to speak of, never wears a gown, and is often mistaken for/passes as a a boy. So who is this on the cover???2) (view spoiler)[Yes, ladies be bangin' dragons. And they're not like...sentient, furry dragons, or dragons that can shift into human shape. These are large dragons that get held down and then they they want to tongue-fuck women, or they might chomp down and kill them. And the women do it to get dat sweet, sweet venom/drug and also because it's totally a divine experience. (hide spoiler)]3) The word "puce" got used a lot.4) (view spoiler)[Maybe I don't understand female genital mutilation well enough, how are they getting erotic pleasure from the dragon-tonguing if all the women have had their clits removed? Oh btw, there's female genital mutilation. (hide spoiler)]5) omg does EVERY OTHER plant or animal or ritual or building or rock or whatever have to have a special made-up name? I couldn't keep track and started skimming when I saw an unfamiliar word because there were so many. But some things were kept the same: ie, carrots are carrots. wat?6) The last 15% of this book goes by fast and not in a good way. Characters are introduced/left behind, Zarq goes all over the place, then decides she wants to come back, she makes decisions then recants on them just a few pages later. I feel like the author rushed through it, or maybe there was some weird editing going on.7) Pet Peeve(s): The women caring for the old bull dragons always have a hard life, but (view spoiler)[THEY WERE ALL ON DRAGON VENOM! MAYBE if they weren't all on drugs and banging dragons at night, they'd be able to get some more work done. (hide spoiler)] Also, Zarq, you're a drug addict honey, I don't feel sorry for you when (view spoiler)[the makmaki brothers and what's-her-face with the baby left you. You're unreliable, dangerous, and untrustworthy. (hide spoiler)]I don't know. If you like dark and brutal worlds, don't mind violence, and woman/dragon relationships don't unnerve you, check this book out.

  • Kaitlynn
    2019-03-19 18:42

    Sometimes a cover is perfect, taking what you are thinking and putting it into art. Sometimes the cover is a disaster, driving you away from a book that is otherwise excellent. And sometimes, just sometimes, a book may have an inaccurate cover that somehow hints emotionally to the books contents.Touched By Venom is about a young girl, Zarq, in her quest to save her sister and deal with the lingering effects of her mother's obsession, in a male-dominated, vaguely Africanized feudal culture with dragons as a major resource. I need to state that the setting of the book is flavorful and rich. It is different enough to be interesting but close enough to real cultures to be understandable and relatable. I do feel that the made-up word quotient is way higher than is needed in a non-Tolkien tome, and it does get confusing and annoying. The relationships between characters, particularly the dynamic between Zarq, her sister, and her mother, struck a chord with me. The mother obviously plays favorites as the sister takes after the mother, both sharing the same mottled green skin indicating a bottom-caste woman with the ability to use powerful blood magic. Zarq, despite the same parentage, did not inherit this. You see the results of this dynamic in many of Zarq's reactions and decisions, its believable. The novel tracks Zarq from the ages of 9 to 17. As such, she makes childish decisions, which is nice and believeavble and shows growth. On the other hand, since she is a child, Zarq is limited in action and is relatively passive compared to an educated, adult heroine. Plot-wise, I enjoyed the smaller elements thoroughly. There's a humanity to finding her sister, to living in the temple, to working in the jungle, etc. The larger plot, I don't know how I feel. It is very much a "Lone Heroine Starting a Revolution and Changing the World!" I certainly like this well enough---its a trope in fantasy, after all---but in this novel it seems to clash the flavor and tone, which seems to be a bit darker and more family-oriented in scale. The leaders Zarq is getting in place to depose are almost laughably evil. It is a very clear Evil Patriarchy. Its a gross oversimplification that doesn't promote a thoughtful feminist theme.I feel like I can't complete this review without talking about the (view spoiler)[dragon sex and female circumcision. When Scott unpacked this book, he said, and I quote: "[...]And you have Touched By Venom, with a dragon wrapped around a chick's waist with the head by her crotch, and the girl is dressed skimpy and looks very pleased to have the dragon there." While inaccurate, artistically, the cover did make us both worry about incoming dragon sex. And we were right. There are graphic descriptions of human-dragon oral relations, en masse, as well as graphic descriptions of forced female circumcisions. The circumcision aspect was beyond over-the-top, and poorly handled, even it is is practiced in modern societies upon which the book culture was based. The dragon oral sex is also overwrought. I 'get it,' its the women reclaiming their sexuality and their identities as women by engaging in sex that is solely for their own pleasure, not for another person or procreation. Its meant to be empowering but it comes off as disgusting, unnerving, and grotesque, particularly since the agents of this sexual liberation are male dragons given to them by the Patriarchy.(hide spoiler)] Perhaps the book requires a trigger warning.TL;DR: A solid story in a rich setting marred by a few very poor artistic decisions.

  • Julia
    2019-03-14 00:57

    The back of this book is misleading - it implies that the heroine spends the book searching for her sister, with the help of her mother. Instead, the heroine is haunted by her dead mother's obsession over finding her sister and hurt by the fact that her mother seemed to love her sister more than her. The heroine never makes any moves to search for her sister. In fact, the heroine is very young and makes very few moves at all, unless directed to do so by others.The cover of this book is somewhat misleading as well. The heroine is not voluptuous or feminine; she passes for a male throughout much of the book. The sensuous pose of the woman on the front cover is in keeping with the story, though. This novel is to a very large degree the story of how the heroine becomes an addict, a venom addict. Dragon venom, found on Dragon's tongues, in Cross' world is a very sensual drug, and by the end of the book, the heroine is not only deeply addicted to the venom, but is also willing to allow the dragon's tongue to penetrate her vagina to increase the potency of her high. On to the real review: Janine Cross has created a very in-depth world, complete with its own terminology for clothes and few indigenous plants and snakes that I think were made up. These are never really explained, just thrown in. The poverty and brutality of the country (and the heroine's life) is described in extensively gruesome detail, but the book itself doesn't really seem to have a plot. A lot of really terrible things happen, life is miserable, the character loses everyone she loves and alienates what friends she gains due to her addiction. In the end, no problems seem to be solved; rather, the character is simply in a slightly different horrifically terrible place in life. It felt more like the the exposition of a book - the first 20% or so - than it did an entire book. It is the first in a trilogy, so perhaps rather than give this book plot, Cross decided to use it to explain the detailed world she created - like background for the next two books. Unfortunately, this book passed with so little suspense or emotional involvement with any of the characters, that I don't feel inclined to read either of the other two books.

  • Diogo Teles
    2019-02-18 17:43

    I was going to give this 1 star, but then I remembered the Twilight books exist.Characters are shallow in personality and only mildly interesting. But frustratingly there seems to be more to them, it is just never explored. That seems to be the general mood for the whole book, there is a feeling of just scratching the surface of something great but then nothing interesting really happens, ever. The story just goes on and on to relate the miserable life of the main character and there is really no turn over point, no carrot at the end of the stick. At the very beginning there is a hint that she will turn into something great, but if that happens it is not during this book. Maybe some more clues or partial fulfilment of this towards the end would have helped by giving a slight sense of accomplishment. There is a constant feeling that something great is going to happen, but all you really get is things becoming worse than they were. There was supposed to be an erotic element to the book, but it's diluted in so much grossness and violence (even assuming the concept of fantasy rape and bestiality is just fine and can be literally interesting if done right) it just becomes bland and sometimes outright disturbing. Maybe there is a target audience for this, I am not part of it though.Credit where it is due, the writing technique is very good and to be fair, if it was not for it I wouldn't have been able to stomach the whole book. Writing is fluid and the descriptive moments are well done, with beautiful choice of vocabulary and figures of speech, without being exaggerated. The problem with this book was definitely not technical format, just content.

  • Jasmyn
    2019-03-02 01:37

    Set in a strange land where dragon masters rule over vast areas of the kingdom called dragon estates, Zarq is a young girl in a pottery clan. Their small clan draws the eyes of the dragon master and their peaceful lives are turned upside down. Zarq's sister is sold into slavery and her mother is slowly losing her mind. Zarq makes a run for it, dragging her mother with her. Their journey takes them to a variety of areas, including a home for the dead and a convent built for the care of elderly dragons. She blames the dragon masters for her mother's condition and her sister's disappearance and will do anything as she seeks her revenge.A very odd tale, and one that I came close to putting down several times. The beginning sequences were almost to fantastical, and I had a difficult time falling into the story. The characters, while changing, did not seem to have very many dynamic qualities to them. Their circumstances changed their actions, but their personalities or thoughts.The land itself was well thought out and interesting. The locations each had their own unique charm without ever being perfect. The plot was easy to follow, once you figured out the ways of the kingdom. I'm going to give the series one more book to see if I can get into them a little bit more before giving up on it.2.5/5

  • Emma
    2019-03-03 22:47

    There are two sides to every coin. This book is both utterly terrible and yet well-written at the same time. I can't help but think that that's quite a feat to achieve.The writing is really very good; it's descriptive, poetic and 'different'. The book managed to keep me going until right near the end. You see, the trouble is - it's just so damn depressing!I kept hoping that somehow, some way - she would escape the terrible monotony, pain and terror of her 'life' - her bleak, dark existence that goes on and on like the dirge of screeching instruments. I was hoping she would blossom into a heroic, unstoppable force to be reckoned with - or that she would be swept away from it all. Nope. I committed literary suicide with this book (something I hardly ever do) - I cut it's life short. I closed it up (or turned off my Kobo) and let it rest in peace.Also, I am used to 'shocking' books - I've read it all. But this kind of went beyond that into know what I'm talking about.My advice is - cheer up Mrs Cross! In every book, no matter how dark, there should always be hope.

  • Phaedra
    2019-03-16 18:33

    I'm not sure what I think of this book. I wasn't squicked by the dragon beastiality, nor was I titillated by it. I wasn't horrified by the female mutilation, but I didn't feel empathy for the characters either. It was a quick read with some good world building and a good look at what people can survive. But I don't feel compelled to read the next book and I'm kind of nervous to do as I get the feeling that the 'perversions' in this book will need to be topped in the later books. The one bit I did enjoy was the resourcefulness of Zarq and her mother in creating the skop jewelry, it gave them money and was (for her mother) a way to thumb her nose at the rich and the oppressive patriarchy. And there were dire and predictable results, as would be expected. I guess I'm more curious about how Zarq can change the world but ultimately I'm certain that the result won't be satisfying. I'm worried that shock value will eclipse the realism needed to give this story an ending that would be believable.

  • Kelsey
    2019-03-14 17:50

    Not for the faint of heart, however, Zarq's journey is an interesting one. [***Mild Spoilers***]I feel the cliffhanger ending was an interesting choice, it demonstrates that this was only the beginning of Zarq's life, and though it took an entire novel to do so, it sets up her background nicely. It does drag in the middle, but stick it though if you've stomached everything else so far!The subject matter is harsh, disgusting and repulsive, but in a fantasy setting it's interesting to explore. This novel is hardly new in that regard, however it's very different (albeit older) than the fantasy stuff they're publishing today. Sure you have some really great Fantasy / Sci-Fi authors, but when looking at the most recent books published the amount of mediocrity and cash-grabs is really disappointing. I dislike being wary of new books, new authors, but the schlock continues on, since it's making money after all. I am actually really interested to read the next book!

  • Belinda Coldhill
    2019-03-02 18:35

    I quite enjoyed this book, despite the many bad reviews by others that have read it. It has a very dark tone throughout most of the book, leaving me guessing again and again what will happen to the main character Zarq, as her world is constantly changing from one despair to another. A cataclysm of discrimination and racism. Poverty in all its increasingly harsh versions has never been more clear to me since reading this book. Elements of fantasy are certainly present, but I think they are there to build the main character up; towards a place of power. That is something both Janine Cross and I both want to see. Even when Zarq condemned herself to simplistic living, I clung to the hope of her life getting better, of seeing how she reforms herself in her childhood home. The end of the novel was very unexpected, yet exciting. I am left with so many questions and anticipation. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-19 20:52

    I picked this book up at Powell's during my spring break. I was looking for some light fantasy novel to distract me from the woes of collegiate life and really, just wanted some pulp femme-tastic Eragon knock-off. Looking at the cover I saw a chick and a dragon, reading through the first few pages things seemed decent enough that I purchased the novel.HOLY SHIT 150 PAGES IN THERE IS DRAGON SEX AND FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND IT'S ICKY AND WHOA TOTALLY WASN'T EXPECTING IT BUT I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN OR LOOK AWAY!Though it wasn't what I was expecting, I enjoyed it. The gritty brutality of Cross' world felt uncomfortable enough and I appreciated the fact that the female protagonist didn't have the world handed to her on a platter. Zarq is one tough cookie. +++As far as guilty pleasure go, well, I definitely bought book 2...

  • Jenny Malec
    2019-02-26 01:51

    The first 3/4 of this book, I was constantly tempted to give it up. I just couldn't get into the weird language, or understand the retarded names the author used for the characters. And Zarq lives such an unfair and torturous life, never being truly loved or taken care of. Things are always out of her control and she comes across as a weak antihero, and yes, I realize for the majority of this book, she is a child, but still. And then the whole dragon-sex thing... Didn't really freak me out or anything, but it was a weird twist. I wouldn't really recommend this book because it seemed so laborious to finish it. And on top of that, it's like the book was written by a totally if different person to me the last 1/4 of it. Then I could read it and understand it better but I still wasn't totally 100% into it like I've been with other books.

  • Steven Allen
    2019-03-11 23:58

    I finished this first book of the trilogy. I like how the author portrays dragons which is different than most of the author fantasy I read. These dragons are definitely not your Tolkein-esque Smaug or anything remotely from Dungeons and Dragons.I understand why the author does not want her young children to read the books as there are a lot of subjects I would not want my children to read until much order. Bestiality between woman and dragon was not something that I had consider, and gives a whole new definition of oral sex. Homosexuality between twin brothers is something else that I was not expecting in this book.I have already started reading the second novel in this series. I probably will not keep them but they are an interesting read.

  • Tina Hunter
    2019-03-19 22:48

    Not the best I've read. The world is interesting and the characters are well rounded but I'm not sure this book needed to be written at all.To me, it seemed like this entire book was back story to book two. Nothing happens that "propels the plot forward". In fact there is no plot in this book, just a series of random events that happen to a girl as she grows up, eventually reaching the point where something does happen and.. oh yeah you have to buy book two to find out.This is a poor marketing trick and I for one won't buy the next two books because of that.Janine Cross writes well and I look forward to her future works, but her first book is a flop for me.

  • Megan
    2019-03-01 21:56

    Okay, this book isn't as bad as these other ratings make it seem. It's just super depressing and intense, and the cover was misleading.The writing is really good, and the world details bare awesome, but... it just wasn't making me want to read it. The heroine went through so much pain, and there didn't seem to be any enlightenment at all. The patriarchal system was just so oppressive, the consequences of a mistake so enormous, that each bad thing happened back to back, and I'm the end I didn't really want to know any more.

  • Stefany
    2019-03-06 20:30

    An interesting book with a unique main character, involving poverty, people of colour, and abusive parenting, as well as a regime in power that isn't easy to change. The one downside I found to this book was Cross' persistent use of using a different language (the one present in the novel's universe) throughout this book as well as the other two. It was hard to follow and I had to guess at many points what the main character was doing because there were many terms I don't even think were explained.

  • Joe
    2019-03-05 00:30

    I am loving this book. I haven't finished it yet, but so far It has moved me to comment. This is not a HEA book for those who need that, and it was hard initially to get into, but this book of fiction shows strongly the damage that any religious belief system does to a society.I would recommend this to anyone who has ever questioned their beliefs before.-Joe-Finished book one, not sure if I'm going to read book two or not yet. Book one was very thought provoking, but I'm afraid book two won't be so much. High bar to reach.-Joe-

  • matt h
    2019-02-24 17:53

    One of the most twisted things I've ever read. World building was excellent, the author's descriptions were on point, not too long that I got bored and started to skim, but very very vivid. (view spoiler)[The main character is kind of a curse on everyone in her life. After she turns about 15 there doesn't seem to be a thing she does that doesn't cause double digit slaughter of those people who are unfortunate enough to know her. (hide spoiler)]

  • Nicole
    2019-03-10 22:49

    So. I read this book fully warned. It was dark, depressing, and contained female circumcision and dragon bestiality. Ooh, naughty and all that. Well, I liked it anyway. The ending was annoyong, with its hints of masochism (out of nowhere) and abrupt cut off (to try to force you on to the next book) but the book caught me and had me going along with it... mostly. The treatment of the darker subject matter was well done too. Meh, I like it some but not enough to read on.