Review of Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

BrightSmokeColdFireBright Smoke, Cold Fire
By: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: September 27th 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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. . .

My Thoughts:
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire was an adaptation/reworking of the play Romeo & Juliet. This has always been my favorite of Shakespeare’s so I was thrilled to have the chance to read it early. Immediately, I was captivated with how Hodge wove the original storyline into this fantasy story. The world was rather complicated and I’ll admit that at times I felt a tad lost trying to keep up with who went with which family, etc. This world is one in which there is only once city standing in a world surrounded by death caused by the Ruining. The dead are pretty much zombies.

From the original play, Paris was always, to me, a very sidelined character. He was always just the poor guy that Juliet was supposed to marry for the honor of her family. I was thrilled that he had a much larger role to play in this adaptation. And, he’s never a love interest for our Juliet. His role was so much more unique. I loved how his character struggled with his self-worth and confidence. He never felt self-assured or that he was really the person for the job. I can really relate to these self doubts so I was instantly sympathetic to his character. He was so realistic.

Juliet was a fierce warrior driven by duty to her family. I loved that she was actually nameless and Juliet was actually her position rather than her name. She was a bit harder to relate to because she hid herself so well to those around her. She had such a deep shell surrounding her true feelings it meant something to me that Romeo was able to find a crack in her surface armor. You might think that this book would be romantically driven. When I picked it up I thought it would be but it was far from that. Yes, romance drives the plot point but I wasn’t overly moved by the relationship between Juliet and Romeo. As with the original their love was new and rushed.

All of the other relationships were so much more moving for me. We have burgeoning friendships, partnerships and companions. I loved watching these characters warm up to each other and slowly open up. I found it to be the driving force in the novel for me.

We focus on multiple characters and their stories and only as things near the end do we really see how it all ties together and how later in the series things might converge. This book set up the story line so well that I can’t wait to see where things will go. I honestly have no clue what Hodge has in store. In this book alone I was surprised by at least a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming.

I think that some readers might find the world building a bit dense and might find it to be a bit slow in certain parts. Though I recognized these things I felt that it all built up to a wonderfully complex and interesting story and world that was worth the time to get a feel for the families, history and magic.

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Final Thoughts:
Once again Rosamund Hodge has written a beautifully complex and original story. I loved how she wove elements of Romeo & Juliet into this story and yet made it completely new. I never knew exactly where the story was going and found myself surprised with the final events. The way this book left off I’m positive there will be a sequel and I can’t wait.

Review of Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

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Crimson Bound
By: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: May 5th 2015
Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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.

The Story:
I was really excited to see a retelling/retake on Little Red Riding Hood and I’ll tell you…the prologue to Crimson Bound was spectacular. I was immediately swept away and fell in love. We experience Rachelle’s life as a 15 year old- bold, and as the summary says, reckless. It was an incredibly powerful start to the book and I couldn’t wait to see where the story would go next.

The first chapter picks up with Rachelle being much older, guilt ridden and horrified by her choices. It was a bit of an adjustment for me since three years had passed but after a few chapters I was entranced with the world Hodge has created. I think the reason it took me a few chapters to really get into the story after the prologue was because the world was a tad complicated and it took me some pages to get the characters straight. Once this was achieved I was very interested in the story progression. As with her debut, Cruel Beauty, the writing was beautifully done. Some of the pacing felt uneven to me with some sections dragging just the slightest bit but not enough to really detract from my reading experience.

I had never heard of The Girl Without Hands which was an inspiration for this book. After some googling I was impressed with how Hodge was able to combine both this tale as well as Red Riding Hood.

The Characters:
I enjoyed Rachelle’s character and felt that she was well constructed and a very interesting character to follow. Hodge does an excellent job in this book as well as her debut with creating really complex characters that are incredibly well rounded.

I love unexpected allies and enemies having to work together so this aspect from the summary was a selling point for sure. I wasn’t 100% sold on Rachelle really hating Armand but it was still fun to read about them having to team up and learn to trust each other or not.

One of the most interesting characters was Erec, Rachelle’s mentor of sorts. I loved the complexity of his character and my inability to ever really like him but to completely understand why Rachelle was drawn to him in some ways. I enjoy a character that has me guessing at their motivations.

My biggest issue with Crimson Bound was some of the dialog between characters. I would love to show examples but most of it was very centered on things that progressed the plot so I’ll not quote it here but a lot of it was really cheesy for me. I felt nothing with declarations of love and really a lot of the pivotal character interactions fell flat. I was reading the advanced reader copy so I’m really hoping that some of it is fixed before the final printing. It felt more like filler lines than finished dialog.

Final Thoughts:
I really love how creative, vivid and imaginative Crimson Bound was. If you are expecting a  retelling don’t- look for Red Riding Hood and The Girl Without Hands as inspiration for the story. It might be fun to brush up on both tales prior to reading so you can catch references here and there. My biggest complaint was that the dialog was weak in many important places which really hurt my emotional connection to story events.

Review of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty
By: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray

An advanced copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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.

The Story:
I’m pretty mixed on my feelings regarding Cruel Beauty. I loved the creativity Hodge brought to her reworking of the classic tale. The main story arc was surprising as well as interesting and I found the idea behind the Beast’s curse to be beautifully done (I can’t reveal much since spoilers). Hodge has a beautiful writing style that is easy to read and flows very well. The pacing was fast for the most part and I was interested in the story immediately.

What I didn’t like was the romance and Nyx’s internal dialog (which I’ll discuss in the character section of my review). I felt like Nyx and Ignifex had very little, if any, chemistry and I think their relationship lacked the slow burn that I look for in any retelling of Beauty and the Beast. To me, the most beautiful aspect of the original story is the journey for the two to get to know one another and see beyond the façade to what makes the other tick. Sadly, I didn’t really get that feeling in Cruel Beauty. The relationship felt disjointed and the love missed the mark for me.

The Characters:
Nyx’s character fought many internal struggles through-out this story. She felt guilt and resentment in equal parts, her constant flip flopping between emotions was understandable but grew to be grating after reading many pages dedicated to it. I did feel that her character developed over the course of the story and I appreciated her strength and determination in her duties.

Ignifex had an interesting back- story though I wished I had a better sense of him than I did. I loved his justifications for why he acted the way he did. I felt he brought some intriguing arguments and really had Nyx contemplating what truly makes one evil. Overall, I liked where Hodge took his story but I felt that I needed just a little more depth and detail to really flesh him out to me.

Another character I have to include is Shade. He is a major player in Nyx and Ignifex’s story though I can’t go into any details without revealing spoilers. I will say that he frustrated me and the ease in which Nyx trusted him was much too fast in my opinion. He really did add some intriguing aspects to the story-arc though and I do think that I might have had the strongest emotions regarding his character and actions.

Final Thoughts:
It’s really hard for me to rate Cruel Beauty. I loved the overall story and felt that it was an original take on the classic. Hodge has a very easy-to-read style and her writing is elegant and flows beautifully. On the other hand, I felt the romance could have used some depth and I wished I had connected more with Nyx.

Cruel Beauty Book Trailer: