Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retellings
Sabriel meets Romeo and Juliet in this stunning and atmospheric novel from the author of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound.
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 the 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 the 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 only 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.
Author Rosamund Hodge's Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is the first part of a two part duology. As the synopsis indicates, her prior works include Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound. Hodge takes her own artistic impressions of Romeo and Juliet and creates a strange journey by adding necromancers, zombies, reapers, and a strong villain who holds all the cards. Then she puts them all inside a walled city called Viyara, where the last remaining survivors of the Ruining have found shelter. Hodge then interweaves her story through the narratives of Mahyanai Runajo and Paris Catresou, while Romeo and Juliet are side characters.
Even though they are side characters, there are several flash back chapters that give the readers pause to understand how they ended up meeting, and how things got to the point where the story picks up. This book takes several different storylines, and gives them their own life and narratives. In the beginning of things, Romeo kills Tybalt, Juliet's guardian. Juliet, who has fallen for Romeo, is supposed to return the favor by killing Romeo. But, of course, that isn't exactly what happens. Instead, Juliet tries to bind Romeo as her guardian, and the attempt goes horribly wrong.
Instead of Romeo being bound to Juliet, he is now bound to Paris Catresou, who is supposed to be Juliet's new guardian now that Tybalt is dead. Meanwhile, The Sisters of Thorn have been keeping the walls up with blood sacrifices that have become more regular than they used to. For Runajo, her only desire is to save the city even if it means her own life. Everything else, including being a rebel against her own sisters and trying to find access to the Sunken Library where she hopes to find answers, is just icing on the cake. After Runajo grabs Juliet before she can cross over, she becomes The Juliet's de-facto guardian.
I must say that if you love twisted stories, then you will love the hell out of this story. I am more of a fan of Runajo's than any other character in this book. She's got a plan. The plan may not go exactly as she expected, but at least she does have a plan. She may fight dirty at times, but again, she really wants Viyara to survive. If the only way to do that is to use unconventional means, including using The Juliet, so be it. I can't say I liked Paris. He's is just not very bright at most times. The part that I did like was his bromance with Romeo, and meeting the King of Cats named Vai. I shall not spoil that, but I am a fan of Vai's as well. I could grow to like Juliet in time. I prefer the ruthless Juliet to any other version.