Die magische Gondel / The Magic Gondola
Author: Eva Völler
Release: August 19th 2011
Genre: Time Travel, Historical, YA
#1 in the Zeitenzauber (Time Spell) trilogy
Sequels: Die goldene Brücke/The Golden Bridge (#2), Das verborgene Tor/The Hidden Gate (#3)
17-year-old Anna is spending her summer with her parents in Venice. During a stroll through the city, Anna discovers a mysterious red gondola. But aren't all gondolas in Venice black?
Shortly after, she is pulled into the red gondola by a handsome stranger after an unfortunate tumble into the canals during a historical boat parade. But before she can climb onto the pier again, the air suddenly flares white. The world blurs in front of Anna and she is pulled back in time, straight into historical Venice.
There, she has a mission to fulfill before she can go home again.
I loved this! It was so much fun! Never ever underestimate German humor, guys. No one can compare. I think this book regularly cracked me up, like, every two pages. No joke! The jokes were right up my alley and I had to stop multiple times because I had to laugh out loud.
I really did not expect to end up liking this book as much as I have, because it seemed awfully cliché and full of stereotypes at first. I also didn't took an immediate liking to the heroine, Anna, because it seems she doesn't want to spend time with this other dude, Matthias, simply because he's overweight and she mentions this fact the whole time as if his obesity was the only thing characterizing him. However, this is soon more or less corrected, since there's much more to Matthias, and that even though he is only a mere side character. Which bears the next point: Every character had personality, stood out and brought something crucial to the story. Even the minor characters that only appear once and never again, like the page boy Gino, were memorable in their own way and helped further the plot along.
And the major characters! They were all so multi-faceted, real and relatable. Especially Anna of course, what I truly loved about her, however, was simply how independent and kickass she was. I don't think that there was a single instance where she had to be saved by the male protagonist, which was stellar! Every time she is cornered by the bad guys, out of her sheer resourcefulness she manages to escape. Like the one time where she remembered S.O.N.G. from the Miss Undercover movie and just folded the villain in half like nobody's business. Man, I fucking loved Anna.
And I also liked the male lead, Sebastiano. I'll be honest with you, I expected this book to be a lot like Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red, and so I kind of thought that Sebastiano would be a Gideon copy in that he would be the brooding, mysterious and arrogant asshole who wasn't going to be straightforward with Anna. And he sort of was that cliché — at first. But soon after, he evolves fully into his own character and he was a good one at that.
The other major players — like Clarissa, Marietta, Bartolomeo, or even José and Dorotea — they all felt so very tangible and simply had presence. It's hard to explain, but I think you know what I mean. They didn't feel like mere cardboard characters acting out stuff that they were told, but they felt more like actual, real people. This whole cast of characters blew me away.
And the setting! Oh, God, the setting. You don't know this about me, but I absolutely am in love with Italy and Italian culture. I'm going to Rome for a week in June, and I couldn't be more excited. I am also currently learning the Italian language, and after visiting Rome, there are countless of other Italian cities on my to-visit list, including Venice as well. And the Venice setting of this book, both modern Venice in the 21st century as well as Venice from 1499 were so incredibly vivid and authentic. They breathed life into the story and it seemed almost as its wholly own entity in the plot. I also got the feeling that it wasn't simply a random backdrop, because Völler makes use of her setting and it enhances the story she's telling a thousand fold. Venice, in this story, interacts with the plot and the characters and the book couldn't have taken place in any other setting for it to work nearly as beautifully as it did in Venice. I am so in awe of this. This was exactly what I criticized about An Ember in the Ashes and what I wished Tahir would have done with her setting and her story.
The writing was full of imagery and full of life, the descriptions flowed very nicely and toed the line between too much and too little perfectly. The dialogue felt extremely stilted and awkward a lot of the time, but I attribute that to the German language, because unlike English, German is a much more formal and impersonal language which is why it somehow felt a bit strange. Then again, it could also be because I'm not really used to reading anything in German anymore, I don't know. The last German book I voluntarily read was probably Silber #2 last year in June, so it's been almost a whole year. And the only other German book I've read since then would be Faust, however, the German language used in that is much more different than the one used in this 21st century Young Adult novel, you know.
Ultimately, this book was simply so refreshing to me. I had so much fun reading it, and it's been a long time since I've had this much fun and that a book has made me laugh out loud as much as this one. It even far, far exceeded To All The Boys I've Loved Before in that respect, which was the last book I said this about, I believe. I am dying for the two sequels now, even though this book actually does wrap up quite nicely without any cliffhangers.
Note: As far as I can tell, this book has not yet been translated to English. It seems it's only been translated into Polish so far. In my honest personal opinion, I think it seems unlikely that this book will ever be translated into English, either. Which is extremely sad, but I still wanted to put my thoughts into words and yes, I am in fact reviewing a German book in English. Why not?