Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Young Adult | Retellings
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Format: e-ARC
Source: Publisher

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. . .(goodreads)

 Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is nothing I expected but highly original!
Plot: Pitched as a high fantasy with some Romeo and Juliet elements, Bright Smoke, Cold Fire immediately piqued my curiosity. While Romeo and Juliet is my least favorite Shakespeare play (damn horny teens), I was excited to see what magic Hodge would work. In fact, there is so much magic that the romance is kind of barely existent. 

The one word that kept going through my head as I was reading Bright Smoke, Cold Fire was "incomplete." It's a fast-paced fantasy novel with some pretty engaging subplots, but I always felt that Hodge was rushing toward the climax and not taking the time to fully flesh out what any of these characters were doing. That only made me feel like the outsider looking in from start to finish. 

Characters: My biggest problem with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is that I set myself up for failure. Seeing how this book seemed to be based on Romeo and Juliet, I expected an epic romance similar to Cruel Beauty. In fact, I've been desperate for a romance like that since well...Cruel Beauty. And I was disappointed when I read Crimson Bound and I was disappointed again when I read Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Romance doesn't seem to be Hodge's focus in this book, despite the material it is based around. Our Romeo and Juliet characters (aptly named Romeo and Juliet) are not even main characters, and the extent of their relationship is only explored during flashbacks.

Regarding our two main characters, they are okay. I liked that there are some references taken directly from Romeo and Juliet (Romeo, Juliet, The King of Cats, Tybalt, Paris, etc), but then things go left with characters like Runjao, Vai, and Miroyo. And these names aren't divided among ethnic groups/clans, they're just given out all willy nilly. It's pretty distracting actually. 

Worldbuilding: Zombies, necromancers, and a society built on differing spiritual beliefs. This world is amazing and I would love nothing more than to delve more so into it! Unfortunately, I did experience the "outsider" effect while reading this book, so I wasn't able to get into the world as much as I would have liked, but I can't help but praise Hodge for her creativity in making this world and its people. 

Short N Sweet: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire has me intrigued enough to pick up the sequel, even if it was light on the romance and heavy on the action. 


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