Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge (review) | Romeo and Juliet meets necromancy

28448239When 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. . . .

Like Rosamund Hodge’s previous fantasy novels, Bright Smoke, Cold Fire contains a hodgepodge (ha, get it? hodgepodge? God, I hate myself) of elements, such as a Romeo And Juliet retelling mixed in with necromancy, zombies, and various forms of blood magic. It sounds AMAZING but in actuality it was one of the most flattest, dense, convoluted books I had ever read. I keep holding out for this author because of my liking for Cruel Beauty, but let’s face it. Her style just ain’t for me.

I have to say the world-building of this book is extremely intricate and thought-out, but the way it’s presented to us just sucks the joy out of everything. All this mythology, terminology, and culture is just thrown at us with no warning and the thick, heavy writing makes it difficult to understand what the fresh hell is going on. I could tell the atmosphere was supposed to be very dark, but the vibe was muddled under the denseness of the prose and convoluted plot. I really appreciate Hodge’s inclination to actually develop a layered plot and story, but their intricacy was their downfall. So much is happening with the necromancy, mystery, zombie awakenings, and blood magic rituals (I swear, every one of the characters is bleeding half the time), but trying to understand this story was like struggling to swim through mud. This was me most of the time through reading this book:

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The characters, unfortunately, were not much better. Slightly better? Maybe. But not good enough to save this book. So we have Romeo, Paris, Juliet, and Runajo, who are all entangled in one great mystery together while dealing with their own issues. In the beginning, Juliet’s Guardian Tybalt, is said to have died by Romeo’s hand, and Juliet is supposed to kill him. Juliet lets him live and actually elopes with him to conduct a ritual that will make Romeo her Guardian, binding him to her permanently. Unfortunately, the ritual goes wrong, binding Romeo to Paris (Juliet’s new Guardian after Tybalt’s death) and Juliet to Runajo. There are some details in between that I left out, mostly because I don’t have the energy to inform you guys of things that confuse me myself. *shrugs*

Each character actually has a very thought-out backstory that is referenced multiple times through the book, however, they aren’t well-written enough to actually make me interested in what happens to them. Paris and Runajo’s stories are sad and intriguing, but their motivations to do what they do are simply too vague and unclear. Why is Runajo so determined to save the world? What’s in it for her? What is behind Paris’ drive to save the Juliet? Yes, I felt for them at moments and found them to be likable, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make me care for their eventual fate.

There is hardly any romance in the story besides the few flashbacks scattered throughout of Romeo and Juliet’s love affair, which comes as a blessing and a curse. Their love story is just as sappy and one-dimensional as the original, but I really think another romance between the side characters, perhaps a LGBTQ romance would have spiced this book up.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire has a brilliant concept but a mind-numbing execution. I’d suggest passing on this one, and looking for your Shakespeare retelling + necromancy fix elsewhere.

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Rating: 2 stars

 

Thanks for reading, guys! If you’ve read this, what did you think of it? Do you have any experience with Rosamund Hodge’s other novels? Let me know below 🙂

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Books, YA Fiction

Crimson Bound, by Rosamund Hodge

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3 Stars

“This is the human way, she thought. On the edge of destruction, at the end of all things, we still dance. And hope.”

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

I actually feel bad for Crimson Bound. It took me nearly a month to finish this, because books, homework, and every mundane thing that existed kept interrupting my reading process. I would rather do ANYTHING than face the boredom of reading this book. I was expecting a lot from Crimson Bound, mostly because of Hodge’s debut masterpiece, Cruel Beauty. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite capture me the way I wanted it to even though it had a lot of potential.

The idea of the book is actually very well thought out. It explores guilt, fear, love, and courage in its characters, and goes all out with world-building. But, I think the extra-ness was its downfall in a way. There was too much going on, and not enough going on at the same time. This might just be me, but I though the the world-building was a good example of this. The book is set in a medieval France,   Like Cruel Beauty, the world is very intricate and complicated. It has all the good elements of a well-made society, and is very intriguing. But, it’s so confusing! Elements of the world (like the Forrest, bloodbounds, the Devourer) were well-described, but it’s so hard to connect the dots because there are so many things being thrown at you at once. The story is on the slow-side, and I don’t mind that, but not much happened until the last few chapters, where it actually gets exciting. Actually, thinking back on the book, I can’t remember anything until the last 20 pages.

The characters are everything you could want, but I couldn’t get attached to them. Rachelle is strong-willed, determined, and snarky. This book brings out all her strengths and weaknesses, and challenges her constantly. She’s got layer after layer, but I couldn’t connect with her as well as I did with Nyx (from Cruel Beauty, I’ve got to compare). She seemed a bit detached from the setting, even though she was the main character. The side characters were even harder to connect to, specifically Armand. I liked him, but there was nothing about him that really attracted me.

There is a love triangle, and I thought it was unnecessary. Rachelle had no chemistry with Armand, and their romance was rushed. I did like how it contributed to the story (especially towards the end), but it should have progressed more until it became ‘official’. I am conflicted over Rachelle and Erec’s relationship. It’s very “push and pull” at the beginning, but later it gets destructive. The relationship itself is quite scary, but I enjoyed their characters when they were together. Rachelle seemed to feel the strongest (about anything) around him, and Erec was very interesting. He was probably the only character in the book that kept me going until the end.

This might be just me, but I thought the last few chapters (where it all comes together) kind of dragged. I experienced this with Cruel Beauty, and I honestly think it’s because of the complicated nature of the plot and story-line. I was so tired by the end of this book, I just wanted to get it finished. Weirdly enough, I actually enjoyed the last few chapters. It was legitimately interesting, and I could totally connect to the characters better in those pages than throughout the whole book. One star is added to the rating because of the last few chapters.

Overall, I would suggest this to anyone who likes complicated and fleshed out world-building, and is a fan of the fantasy genre (specifically Rosamund Hodge). Unfortunately, Crimson Bound was just not for me.

-Haven

Books, YA Fiction

Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge

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Rating: 4 Stars

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I don’t think a 100 gifs could explain what emotions I went through while reading Cruel Beauty. It had me like this:

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And a million more emotions in between.

If I were to describe Cruel Beauty in one word, it would be: engrossing. The enjoyability rate is high, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. The writing is no joke, it flows perfectly and is some of the most beautiful writing I’ve seen all year. The entire novel has a dark, nightmarish tone to it, which I enjoyed. The world-building was very intricate and interesting, but also the reason I docked off a star from my rating. The book is set in an ancient Greco-Roman type world, with magic, mythology, and such. Although it was all very well-developed, it often perplexed and confused me. There were a lot of stories, terms, and other specific things that were hard to keep up with. The story was extremely illustrious and captivating, but also so, so complicated.

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