Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Series Details: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire #1
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Imprint: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Blurb from Goodreads:
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 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 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 just 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. . .
Once upon a time, she believed she was only a sword. Now she fears she is only a girl.
When you say retelling, Rosamund Hodge is the first author that comes to my mind. Being a huge fan of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, I’d read anything with her name on the cover. Hodge’s worlds were always very complex and intricate that it has the tendency to become a bit confusing at a point. That’s how it goes with her first two books and I ended up loving them anyway. But such was not the case with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Reading this felt like being in a maze and I found myself lost a lot of times.
Yes, this is a retelling! Of Romeo and Juliet! And it comes with necromancers! And zombies! And magic! I thought I was hitting a lot of birds with one stone. With Romeo’s and Juliet’s name on the blurb this book screams romance, which is what I’m so into lately. Also I was just really curious as to what this classic couple’s chemistry would be like under Hodge’s imagination. And seeing how Hodge can expertly weave an addicting romantic fantasy and develop extremely unforgettable characters in her previous works (Hello, Ignifex!), I thought now is the time to start reading this book.
Oh, how disappointed I am!
This wasn’t as romantically-driven as I expected. Romeo and “The” Juliet barely had moments together. They were in the opposite sides of the line the entire time. There were flashbacks of how they first met, how they fall in love, but it was faster than any insta-love reads I ever came across so I didn’t really liked it. And it didn’t help that the story wasn’t told in Romeo’s or Juliet’s POV.
The narration switches from Runajo’s and Paris’s POV. After Juliet’s failed attempt to a ritual that was supposed to bind Romeo as her Guardian, everything was in chaos. She somehow ended up binded to Runajo –a member of the Sisterhood that maintains the magic that holds the wall of Viyara. Romeo, on the other hand, was accidentally binded to Paris –the one chosen by the Catresou clan to be the Juliet’s Guardian. Thinking that Romeo was killed by the ritual, the Juliet has no reason for living so she agreed to help Runajo on a dangerous mission of finding ways on how to fortify the walls without using human sacrifices. Romeo and Paris, after finding out that Juliet’s death wasn’t entirely an accident, goes to the outskirts of Viyara to uncover the existence of a powerful necromancer so they may have their revenge.
It all sound so perilous and exciting but it just didn’t work for me. It felt like I’m reading two different stories and I keep waiting for that moment where those two connects and everything finally makes sense but it just didn’t happen.
Another reason why this book made it to my priority list is because I love living in Hodge’s worlds, dark as it may seem. See how I’m so obsessed with this author? But again, I’m a little disappointed. The world-building is good but not as vivid as her previous ones. I found myself wanting more details about Viyara, the world outside its walls, the history of it all. I wanted a clearer understanding about the magic system, their traditions, their beliefs, because every time the author brought those things up I get deep furrows in my brow.
On the positive side, I find this book unique for a Romeo and Juliet retelling. The concept was great and maybe I would’ve liked it better if things were less confusing. I may have some issues with the main characters but there’s definitely one worth watching out for: the King of Cats.
“Also known as Vai the Bloody, Vai the Terrible, Vai the Bloody Terrible, and more importantly, Vai dalr-Ahodin, captain of the Rooks.”
That’s my favorite character for you. In this book, friends were very hard to come by and so I loved the idea of friendship slowly taking root between characters who started off hating each other. So, points for that.
Having said all that, will I be reading the next book? Yes, I think. But only because I have this habit of always finishing a series that I started. Even those that I didn’t like much. Because I’m always curious how things will wrap-up in the end. The sequel won’t be on my priority list this time though.
Will I recommend this book? Well, if you’re thinking on picking this up hoping for nice banters and swoon-worthy romance, you might want to skip. You won’t find that here. If you’re a very patient reader who doesn’t mind being puzzled, then you might just find this interesting.