Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retellings
Series: Untitled (Book #1)
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
ISBN-10: 0062369415 (HarperTeen)
ISBN-13: 978-0062369413 (HarperTeen)
Reviewed by: Zed
Sabriel meets Romeo and Juliet in this stunning and atmospheric novel from the author of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound.
When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.
The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou, share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on the Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.
Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding the Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.
Mahyanai Runajo only wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.
Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . .
Quick & Dirty: A truly disappointing retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
Opening Sentence: If he does not come soon, she may not have the heart to kill him.
I’ve read a couple of captivating books by Rosamund Hodge so when I received an ARC of Bright Smoke, Cold Fire and realised that not only is it written by Hodge but that it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I was excited to say the least. Let’s cut to the chase: that feeling didn’t last long.
The world was dying, and death did not care who mourned.
It started off brilliantly, drawing me into the story with the romance and the action but then it all catapulted. I can’t recall exactly when things turned sour but let’s just say it didn’t take long. I found that there were too many characters all higgledy piggledy, killing each other, coming back to life, trying to kill each other but not succeeding and so forth. There was too much going on and an overload of information that was hard to take in. The Romeo and Juliet part was easy enough to follow, mainly because their names were still Romeo and Juliet (gold star for originality) but it was all the sisters of death (or life, I can’t remember) and the gazillion beliefs and traditions that had my head whirring the entire way!
“It is the way of things that I cannot walk the Paths of Light,” said Juliet, “and yet I count myself more blessed than you, because at least I know they exist.”
I count myself blessed that my family never tried to destroy me, thought Runajo, but she didn’t say anything.
After a while I stopped trying to remember who had what agenda and focused on trying to finish the book, which was a task in itself. At the time it felt a lot longer than 448 pages!
There was only one possible choice. The risk was much too terrible, her failure too certain. Everyone in the room knew that Runajo would have to call herself a child and beg for mercy.
Everyone in the room didn’t know her at all.
I could not make myself like Juliet at all. It’s not that I didn’t like her but I just couldn’t understand her. She’s ‘become’ a Juliet, which is essentially an assassin for the Catresou family, but she hates Runajo and the sisters, though they’re pretty much doing the same thing by killing people to protect the city? It just didn’t make sense.
Then there was Romeo, who I thought I wouldn’t like because he’s so emotional and superficial. However, it was interesting to see him through the bond he shares with Paris, because then the reader realises that Romeo isn’t just an overly dramatic attention seeker. Romeo is a very emotional guy and seems to drown in his feelings for real!
Romeo looked uncommonly like a bird fluffing itself up for a mating display. “My love is as true as the stars are bright,” he said with terrifying intensity. “So is his.”
The sub-captain’s mouth quirked. “Tiny and flickering and easily clouded over?”
She doesn’t believe you, said Paris silently, so can you stop humiliating us?
There is no shame in love! It shouldn’t have been possible to shout silently, but Romeo managed it.
Paris was too cowardly for my liking and I felt sorry for him at times but he wound me up when he ran from almost every fight he encounters. How he ever thought he could be Juliet’s Guardian, I do not know.
It was so strong, he could hardly think. With a last, violent effort, Paris managed to slam the wall back between them. Then he looked at Romeo and said the very first thing that came into his head.
“You are completely useless. Who cares about your broken heart? We need a plan to bring Lord Catresou to justice.”
There were some improvements towards the end, and the characters became somewhat bearable. Runajo might have had a heart of stone to begin with, but she was easily the least annoying out of the main four. Vai, the King of Cats, was most interesting, but sadly it was not enough to make Bright Smoke, Cold Fire an enjoyable read.
And then Runajo had to look away. “I don’t mourn,” she said quietly. “I don’t often feel pity. I don’t see the point. Everyone dies anyway. People delude themselves that they’ll live forever – they say they are mortal, but they still weep when they die, when they lose somebody close, and it makes no sense. They already knew. I’ve always known, so why can’t they understand it?”
FTC Advisory: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.