Review: Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Why I chose this book: Some of my earliest memories consist of sitting in church and hearing bible stories of ancient people. While others were fascinated with the stories themselves, I wanted to know more about the people, history, and culture. When I opened an encyclopedia for the first time, I remember feeling overwhelmingly excited to find out that ancient Rome was an actual place. Since then, I’ve jumped on any book that takes place in or around that time period. Yes, I know what you are thinking; I’ve stated many a time that I hate historical fiction. This is still true. But for some reason this doesn’t feel like historical fiction, it feels far more exciting and tangible. 

by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Format: ARC
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto?

TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But his warrior's heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.

LUCIA is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she's been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air. . . .

When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them -- to Lucia's father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world? (Goodreads)

3 Things You Need To Know:

1. I am a sucker for forbidden love. Give me a story about forbidden love and I’ll read it with a happy heart. This book is chalk full of it! I found it odd that the author would incorporate pretty scandalous topics of infanticide, women’s roles, and slavery, but hardly touched on anything related to romance. The passion between the two characters was visible, but it didn’t feel realistic. It felt far too chaste. Hello, if the world around me looks like it is about to end, you can bet I will be doing a lot more than chaste kissing. Ahem.

2. Simmering plot. The plot was dreadfully slow at times, almost like volcano itself. Everything goes slowly, then BOOM. Action! Suspense! Plot twists! Like novels about the Titanic, you know the inevitable will happen, but still cheer for the characters in spite of it. Tag and Lucia are two characters that you find yourself cheering for. You want them to work out, move to a less volcanic town, and raise little Roman babies that will please the emperor and gods alike.  Yet not all things end well and you will hurt for this lovable duo. 

3. 10 points to House Shecter for attention to detail. The one thing I loved about this book was the careful attention to detail that the author incorporated in her storytelling. From the intricate descriptions of the houses to the creation of gladiator life, everything was lifelike and lovely. At times I felt like I was reading a picture book than a novel. For some stories I don’t like being told what to picture, but for this book it worked. I felt particularly ancient and refined. 

Final Thoughts: 

 If you want a book that gives the reader a picture of ancient times, then this is the book for you. While the plot is slow, don’t give up. I found that finishing this book was well worth it.

I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads. Go forth and read!

1 comment:

  1. You had me at forbidden love, but the plot thing. Gah. I don't know if I could handle it. I'm going to check out some reviews because I hadn't heard of this one before.


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