Friday, August 12, 2016

Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Series: Untitled, book #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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. . . .

Unlike a lot of people, Romeo & Juliet has never been my favorite of Shakespeare's plays. (I go more for the brutal, cunning Macbeth.) I just don't get how overly romanticized R&J is when Romeo was infatuated with the fair Rosaline one day, only to find himself in love with Juliet the next. Fickle I may be at times, but that just rubbed me the wrong way. However, I am a Rosamund Hodge fangirl for life, and I will read anything and everything she writes.

And now that I've read Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, I'm not really sure what to do with myself. I've gotten so used to Hodge's stand-alone fantasies that it's rather shocking to be done with this book and not know how everything turns out. It's a planned duology, and I would very much like to have the next book in my hands now, but regardless of that fact, I'm still quite sure I loved this dark, bloody little novel. I absolutely love how Hodge turns the original tale of Romeo & Juliet on its head and basically makes me love her version better than Shakespeare's.

Gone are the romantic notions that Romeo and Juliet could end up happily ever after. This retelling opens on the eve of the end of Romeo and Juliet's tale and it's clear that this story is every bit the tragedy that the original play was. Especially since there are evil necromancers lurking in plain sight, wreaking their own brand of havoc while the city - the last in existence - is already plagued by revenants and reapers. And anyone who passes and is not burned upon death reawakens to become the living dead. Creepy. Imagine what this might mean, then, for our tortured lovers, if you will.

That being said, this is not a zombie book. There are no walking dead, shambling about in search of brains. Not yet, anyway. There are those who are being reanimated to do the necromancers bidding, though, and that's bad enough. And this is where our key players come in, because at the heart of the story is each of their desire to save the city from itself.

Romeo is still a besotted fool, but Paris has a much bigger role in this version. Rather than being Juliet's intended, he is her protector. Because Juliet is not just a girl. She is THE Juliet, a weapon in her own right. Even Rosaline has a starring role in this tale, though as the [mostly] unfeeling Runajo who will sacrifice herself in her determination to save Viyara. After a chain of events that none of them could have predicted, and on opposite sides of the city, these enemies from rival families form some rather reluctant alliances and it is exquisite.

I found the world-building in this book to be rather intense but phenomenal, though it may be rather dense for some readers. Everyone trapped within the walls of the city for their own safety. The lower market. The underground library. Magic and blood and blood magic. All of it was so easy to imagine with Hodge's vivid descriptions. And I loved seeing the parallels to the original tale of woe while reading a completely different - albeit still lovely and tragic - story. Obviously, there was that whole ordeal with Romeo and Juliet, but then there are the warring families, the apothecary...the duel with Tybalt that leaves Romeo a wanted man. I loved every detail Hodge kept from the original story, and I loved them even more as they morphed into something evil and dark and altogether awful.

Unlike her other novels, though, this one is not remotely romantic. Okay, maybe a teensy bit. In flashbacks. But I think the story is all the better for the absence of romance. At least in this first book. There's still so much for the characters to learn and understand, and a city to save, so it makes sense for any romance to take a backseat to the pivotal struggle at hand.

Suffice it to say, I am thoroughly impressed with this novel. That's not surprising, though, considering how much I enjoyed her previous retellings. I very much look forward to the conclusion to this Romeo & Juliet retelling, especially as I wonder if the lovers will face the same fate as in the original tale...


GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

I love mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. I write YA fantasy that draws on two of those things. My next novel is BRIGHT SMOKE, COLD FIRE (09/16), the first in a two-volume series about Romeo and Juliet and necromancers.

Find Rosamund:

Website | TwitterFacebookGoodreads


  1. Sounds right up my ally with the creep factor and the R & J. Plus absence of romance is pretty rare :)

    1. It really is. And I've been in a romance mood ever since I finished this, but I still believe that the absence of romance from this book made it even better. Hope you love it when you get to it.

  2. I'm really excited for this book (and I'd really love to have the beautiful cover right on my shelf. who doesn't anyway?). And honestly, I prefer books with little romance because sometimes the romance just gets all over the book. So glad you enjoyed this. Great review :)

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

    1. I agree. Sometimes the plot ends up taking a backseat to the romance and the books suffers for it, but the opposite is true here. I can't wait to have a finished copy of this one on my shelf, either. :)

  3. The gif you used is so perfection. Oh Romeo, Romeo. *dreamy sigh* I'm really interested to read this book. I even requested for an ARC for this (which I'm hoping I'll get approved of). I love retellings so much.

    Alyssa @ Diary of a Book Maniac

    1. Ha, thanks. I liked the surprise factor because this book is definitely full of those. I hope you get a chance to read it, too. I believe it was up on Edelweiss if you have access to that. Good luck!


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