Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: September 27th, 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 9/21/16 to 9/27/16
448 pages

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. .

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Last year, I read Crimson Bound and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thinking that I again would be entranced by Hodge’s writing, I picked up Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Unfortunately, I didn’t really end up enjoying it, and maybe it’s because I’ve never really been a fan of Romeo and Juliet. Or, maybe it’s because the only similarities between the two were the names, and the fake deaths.

Also enjoy all my commas, because that’s what I do when I am confused, apparently.

The first red flag was being thrown right into the world of “The” Juliet and Romeo. And also of Runajo, who as some sort of priestess, feeds her blood to the walls of the city. Or something. As The Juliet and Romeo secretly wed, performing the ritual to bind Romeo as her protector, she accidentally ends up killing herself. But Runajo pulls her out of death and binds The Juliet to herself, also by accident. With names like Mahyanai, Catresou, Paths of Light, I had no idea what was going on. What does this all mean? Is Mahyanai a race? A tribe? A family? What was with this Sunken Library? And the walls feeding on the blood of the people? It took me pages before realizing that this was a Romeo and Juliet retelling (the names should have cued me, but I am often pretty oblivious).

The Juliet herself is some sort of warrior who brings justice down to everyone and anyone. But she was chosen (made?) to be the warrior for the Castresou. I’m not sure why they needed her specifically, why they couldn’t just train many warriors from birth. Is it because her protector can control her? I don’t know why she doesn’t even have a real name, or why she is referred to “The” Juliet in the first place.

And I didn’t even end up shipping Juliet and Romeo together here. Since Runajo spends a lot of time with The Juliet, I wanted those two to be together. And then this other Castreou boy, Paris, ends up being paired up with Romeo (how this happened, I have no idea), so I ended up shipping those two together as well. As Romeo and Paris investigate the crimes of the Castreou, they bump into Vai, King of the Rats. Then I was shipping Vai with Paris, but then it turned out (Spoiler, highlight to read) that Vai was a girl, and swore to hold the title of a boy because her family had no other sons, or whatever. Bottom line was, it was ambiguous as to what her sexuality was, or the pronouns she/(he?) used for that matter (see?). After the discovery, “she” is used for the rest of the novel, making it even more confusing. In this case I would say it’s for practical purposes, but from Vai’s explanation, I’m not even sure. (End spoiler)

The closer I got to the end, the more I wanted to be done with this. Especially with the idea of necromancy thrown in, reminding me of how this is an inferior version of Lirael, which coincidentally I was reading as well. Though I ended up enjoying the book by the halfway mark, it was more of a “let me accept everything just to get through it”. I just felt way too invested to stop.
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