Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Sunday, August 14, 2016
Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: fantasy, retelling
Series: Untitled #1
Pages: 448
Published: expected September 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

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. . . .

Rosmund Hodge has a hell of an imagination; it's impressive, inventive, and on display once again here with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. She is an author that sees stories in ways others just don't, and from that unique vantage point she can figure out how to mash and combine and retell those stories in her own image. Be it Bluebeard mixed with Greek mythology and Beauty and the Beast or The Girl with No Hands and Norse mythology, her books are indelibly like none other. The same here is true with her zombie apocalypse and magic retelling of Romeo and Juliet. 

I have to admit this is an anti-black sheep alert! (White sheep? Would we just call that a sheep? I digress....) Most of my friends have been disappointed by Hodge's third book; about half DNF'd and half two-starred. And here I am, with my unabashed love for it. The beginning is cluttered and rough; the various families and their religions and politics are confusing. I didn't care: I loved it and had so much fun with these reworked characters.

This is the most I have ever liked the story of Romeo and Juliet -- they were teens who knew each other for days before dying IT'S NOT A REAL ROMANCE -- so maybe it's the  inclusion of the zombies? Maybe it's the stone-cold badass that is the Juliet, full of life and passion and agency? Or maybe it's Romeo and Paris acting like CSI investigators with a psychic mind link? Maybe it's Hodge's unique and creative worldbuilding? Or maybe it's all the gay headcanons this book seems to beg for. I dunno. I just really, really dug this.


  1. I didn't loved this one as much but YES FOR ALL THE GAY HEADCANONS

    1. haha well I am glad we can agree on that part, at least. :)


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