Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published September 27th, 2016 by Balzer + Bray
The previous book I’ve read by Rosamund Hodge, Crimson Bound, was a huge disappointment. You can read my crappy review of it HERE. Now, I’m all for second chances which is why I requested this book. I’m so glad that I did.
What’s funny is that a lot of people seem to have the exact opposite opinion on these books. The ones who absolutely loved Crimson Bound and Cruel Beauty seem to be very disappointed in this one. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much!
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. . . .
Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is a darkly romantic and atmospheric fantasy.
Okay, I have absolutely zero Kindle notes to work with here, which says a lot really. So let me sum up some of the complaints I’ve come across on Goodreads instead, and counteract them with my own thoughts*:
1. “The story is confusing“
The world building is very complex and yes, you need to use those brain cells to grasp the whole concept but isn’t that what you want from a Fantasy book? This has got to be the most unique world building and storyline I have come across in a while. Complex, but oh so creative and well thought out.
The world is dead, except for the city of Viyara which is protected by a magical wall that keeps the poisonous fog out. People still die in the city, but not by the hand of the Ruining (which is what the deadly fog is called). Outside that wall, the world is crawling with revenants, people who died in the fog but came back to life again a.k.a. ZOMBIES! If you die within the wall of Viyara, you will also turn into a zombie, but there’s the City Guard who takes care of that issue so there aren’t any zombie herd scenarios there. Except within the Sunken Library, an ancient place deep down in the cloister of the Sisters of the Thorn.
These Sisters keep the wall functioning by sacrificing blood to it. Their own blood, but also the blood of sacrifices every six months. The magic within the wall is fading, though; human blood isn’t enough and sacrifices are being demanded more often.
Runajo, one of the Sisters of the Thorn but a bit of a rebellious one, wants to find answers in the Sunken Library in the hope of learning how the magic of the wall really works since most knowledge on that has been lost. Yet, there are the revenants, thousands of them in the Library, which is why no one has set foot in it for a long time. Let alone returned from the trip afterwards…
There are three major clans in the city: the Catresou (which I can’t help but pronounce in French the whole time), the Mahyanai, and the old Viyarans. The Catresou and the Mahyanai are each other’s archnemeses. And because the story is loosely built on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, of course, the Romeo in the story is of the Mahyanai and the Juliet belongs to the Catresou. Which brings me to the second complaint on Goodreads.
2. “There’s instalove“
Yeah, no, not really. There’s Romeo, a love fool who lives for love and writing poems, so it’s not a big surprise there that he falls for Juliet right away. Juliet is attracted to Romeo but with none of that ‘His rock hard abs made me shiver with excitement’/’The twinkle in his eyes made my heart flutter’ kind of nonsense. In fact, they’re both wearing masks, which makes it kind of hard to see someone’s eyes twinkle in the first place.
Apart from that, the actual romance aspect is very low key. There are two or three flashbacks maybe with some modest romance in it, but in general, it’s more about friendship than anything else. Which I think was GREAT!
3. “The story was boring“
Ehm, have we even read the same book? I nearly fell out of bed when I was reading a particular zombie scene. And necromancers? And MURDER! Boring…pfft, if anything, this was the most exciting story I’ve read in a while.
4. “The characters fell flat“
Again, have we read the same book?! The Juliet is a power machine infused with magic (heh, anyone ever noticed the words machine and magic look kind of alike?) born to kick the shite out of the unjust! She’s dual wielding those revenants like there’s no tomorrow.
Runajo kicks ass in a different way, by remaining stubborn and showing the High Priestess some serious cojones. Paris and Romeo are adorable (and no, they aren’t gay/bisexual like some of the blurbs suggest).
The side characters aren’t always very distinct when it comes to their personalities but who cares, we’ve got four main characters to love already!
5. “The book is too lengthy“
I wish it was longer so the story would’ve been wrapped up nicely.
And this is probably one of the rare points of criticism that I have myself here. I was not prepared for this to be a duology. I would’ve preferred it to be a stand alone and not end the story with a cliffhanger. This doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to reading the second book, though. I NEED to know what happens next!!
Zombies, Romeo and Juliet, no lovey-dovey shit, necromancers, awesome worldbuilding. Dark Fantasy. Hells to the yeah. Read this book.
(and speaking of zombies, who else is eagerly awaiting new episodes of The Walking Dead!? Don’t die Glenn!! Or Daryl!!)
Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy of the book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest opinion!
*This is by no means an attack on those who didn’t like the book. I thought it was really fascinating to see so many opinions shifting along with my own one, albeit it being in the opposite direction.
Links to the book: