Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Release Date - September 27, 2016
Publisher Website - Harper Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 448 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. . . 
Magic, zombies, necromancers, and a deadly fog. These elements do not typically bring to mind the love story of Romeo and Juliet. Rosamund Hodge twists their romance with fantasy elements to create something that is entirely unique, and still just as romantic.

Juliet as a sword wielding tool of vengeance may sound odd, but a Juliet who can kick ass is a welcome change to the one in Shakespeare's play. Sympathy is created as she is viewed as a tool to be used by everyone. She is someone who is not even given a proper name other than the title of The Juliet. She is meant to be used to avenge any wrong done against her family. Her wants and desires are not taken into consideration and that leads to her making rash decisions when it comes to her heart and her love for Romeo.

Romeo, at various times, provides comic relief. He is exactly the Romeo from Shakespeare's play. Flighty, overtly romantic and sentimental, and prone to dramatics. You get a true sense of their age from him, as Juliet is more harden and detached. We get glimpses of their courtship through flashbacks and that is the only time we see a more relaxed, and youthful Juliet. Their romance makes sense because Romeo treats her as a person, instead of a thing. He sees the girl behind The Juliet, and likes her for things that are truly her. He wants her for reasons that have nothing to do with her standing, and that makes a huge difference to Juliet.

The other characters in the classic, from Paris to Rosaline, are within these pages The biggest change is to Rosaline. She is a driven woman who is willing to sacrifice for what she feels in the greater good. Her and Juliet are not so different from each other underneath everything, and their interactions are the most unexpected and welcome parts of the story. A novel that offers two complex, driven, and motivated female characters is always welcome, and this one adds a little something extra to their dynamic.

Those worried that this is more of a romance than anything else will be delighted to know that there is plenty of action, betrayal, death, and high stakes. The romance may be part of what drives the story, but Rosamund Hodge ensured that each of the characters were more than just the romance, even Romeo. Death stalks these pages in multiple ways. First through the zombie like creatures that haunt these pages, and the fog that wait just outside the quickly weakening walls protecting Viyara. This struggle to survive, and the political dynamics at play are what take centre stage and are the most fascinating part of the story. The fantasy elements, in particular, are wonderfully crafted and written. We can easily picture the world, and it's inhabitants as a result.

There is a rich context to Juliet's story and having her agency taken away. That fact pulses through the story and is part of what drives Runajo and many of the other characters. The fact that Juliet sacrifices so much, and is not even given a proper name is never far from the reader's minds. We see the honour aspect to what she is doing her family, but the unsettling reality that she is having her choices taken away, and many of them without consent feels stronger. I hope this issue is continued to be explored in the subsequent novels in this series, because I feel this novel has only begun to examine this aspect of the story.

The only issue I had with this novel was that it did take quite a bit for me to fall into the story. The beginning of the story is not as engrossing as the later half.  There is plenty that has to built and introduced before getting to the heart of the story. It makes the pacing feel a little off. Luckily, once you do fall into the story it is entirely worth it for this complex world, and unique twist the author has written.

A highly imaginative and unique take on the Romeo and Juliet story. If the original was not to your liking, I predict you'll love this fantasy twist on the star-crossed romance. A story filled with death, love, and the lengths people will go to for both.

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