About a month or so ago I had the great pleasure of reading Bright Smoke Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge. This book is a Romeo and Juliet retelling where we follow four main characters as they work on seemingly separate missions. Romeo Mahyanai and Paris Catresou work to expose the higher ups of the Mahyanai clan, who seem to be breaking various laws that hold the dying city together. Juliet Castresou and Mahyanai Runajo work to save the city through finding the ancient knowledge that could save the city. In this book the small city known as Viyara is the last living civilization in a world ruled by the dead, and seem to simply be buying time until they all become a member of the undead.
Overall I give this book four out of five stars. It was an awesome read that I couldn’t put down. Ultimately this book lost the last start because I wanted to see more of the world, watch the characters grow more, and learn more about the magic system, the Juliet, and The Sisters of Throne. I felt like these characteristics really set this book apart from others but we didn’t see a lot of it, which could really set this book apart from a traditional retelling.
If you haven’t read the book I urge you to stop here, but if you’re ready for some spoilers keep reading.
So now, we are going to go a little bit more in depth, starting with the characters and moving onto elements of the book.
In this book Paris is a student who is training to be the protector of the Juliet (we will get there in a moment). When he goes to attempt to defeat Tybalt (which he knows he won’t be able to do) he finds that Tybalt is dead and he automatically inherits the position to be the Juliet’s protector. Once he meets the Juliet he finds that it isn’t as he expected, but he wants to gain her trust and become her closest companion. On the first night, though, Juliet decides to go through the guardian ceremony with Mahyanai Romeo. Once the ceremony is over we find it hadn’t gone as planned, Paris (in his attempt to save Juliet) ends of bond to Romeo and Juliet has passed. From there on Paris and Romeo attempt to find out more about what the Catresou clan is doing and save the clan from disaster. You tend to fall in love with him as a character because you feel how much he has to prove, and how badly he wants to prove his worth to his clan.
Romeo fell in love with Juliet, and a scene between them open the book with Juliet about to kills Romeo because of his offense to her clan. As time passes we find out that Romeo had crashed a party at Juliet’s house and the two of them fell in love though dance and poetry. The two young lovers had been “wed” by Mahyanai traditions as a way to be together even though their two clans seem to be at war in the city. Once Romeo is bound to Paris he does everything he can to help Paris take Juliet’s father out of power in a way to avenge the woman he love and to prevent another Juliet from being named. He truly is head over heals and I enjoyed learning more and more about him as the book went on. He doesn’t seem to have much true connection to his clan, but it’s understandable when you’re cast aside as a child.
Runajo is the one of the strongest women I have ever read about. After the death of both of her parents she throws herself to the Sisters of Thorne and break almost all of their rules to achieve her ultimate quest of gaining the knowledge of the long forgotten library has. During her punishment for taking her vows, publicly, before being given the ok she finds Juliet Catresou walking among the dead, and because Juliet looks very alive in the procession of souls Runajo pulls her from the procession and hides her to protect her. The two of them band together to not only get the information from the second library, but they also work to find who is the killer among the sisters. The two of them aren’t the best of friends, but they work together well. Runajo is probably the only character in this book that wants the best for her people and will do what she can to help them, regardless of what needs to happen. She messes up and puts Juliet in danger, but that allows her to grow and begin to consider what happens from there on out.
Juliet is the sword of the Catresou clan. She was never given a name and is bound to avenge any member of her clan that had wrong done to them. She is able to see “justice” and can determine the guilty simply be looking at them. She falls in love with Romeo because of his poetry and his strong belief that she truly has a soul and will go to some sort of afterlife. She chooses Romeo to be her guardian after Tybalt’s death, even though Paris was assigned to her. She hates the sisters of Throne but continues to help Runajo for two reasons. The first is because they are bound together (as Juliet and Guardian) and the second is because Runajo truly wants to ultimately save everyone which is something she can get behind. She kind of is a 2D character because she loves Romeo and hates everyone who isn’t part of the Catresou clan. That’s basically her in a quick summary.
I honestly wanted to see more of the world. We know that if you are part of a larger clan you wear a mask and that outside of the city of Viyara the dead have risen and are doing the zombie thing to take over the world. No one knows why this is or how to solve it, but the Sisters of Throne have create a barrier between the city and the outside world. Sadly, this barrier needs a sacrifice more and more often, which is why Runajo wants to figure out a more permanent solution before the sacrifices become even more regular. Beyond that we don’t have much more about the world and things like music, culture, clothes, food, or anything of that sort. Sadly I ended up really wanting to know more about these things as Paris and Juliet interact with the world and get to know it outside of their homes.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this story, but as after the first three chapters I quickly realized I bit off more than I had expected. I really loved the story. I think that this premise is so interesting and such an amazing twist on the classic Romeo and Juliet series. I really loved his Juliet wasn’t as weak as she has been in many of the retellings I’ve read. How powerful the girls were in this book. Although the two of them have a history of mistakes they still work towards such an important goal and continue to do that regardless of what happens. I loved the story.
The Magic System
This is where I’m going to start getting into the bad parts of this book. I don’t understand the Magic System 100%. The basic of part of the magic system is blood is payment. The other part of the magic system is who knows what and I’m honestly so confused about it. There isn’t one valid developed magic system and that confuses me for a lot of the book. Honestly this is pry the largest reason I didn’t like this book. I wanted to it be more streamlined and concise instead of several different systems that we just touch on.
I don’t get the purpose of the Juliet, I feel like it was just super convenient for the author honestly and I didn’t fell like it was absolutely necessary for the book. My best was to describe it is that puzzle piece that you force into the puzzle because that’s where isn’t going to fit.
Overall I really did like this book and I give it four out of five stars because of the shortcomings that I really didn’t like. I’m hoping that the next book in the series (being published July 24th, 2018) will answer. The book ended on a very driven note and I can’t wait to pick up the new one once the book is released.
See you soon,