Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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

{Review} Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii
Title: Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii
Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published: May 27th, 2014 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 336

{Thank you Arthur A. Levine Books and Netgalley for providing this in return for an honest review}

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?

I don’t usually read historical fiction, but this one blew me away.  The main thing that drew me to this book was my fascination of natural disasters and the beautiful cover.  This book was amazing. 

I really enjoyed the character development and that the love story between Lucia and Tag felt genuine.  I also liked that the book was written in both Tag’s and Lucia’s point of view, with it alternating between chapters.  The plot moved at a steady pace, but if you are looking for explosions at the beginning of the book, you will be disappointed.  This book started out slow, but it was really able to make me feel connected to all the characters so that by the end of the book, I really cared about what would happen to them.  This book was also full of twists I did not see coming!  I am really glad that this book was realistic in its portrayal of the eruption, with not every character getting a happy ending.  In fact, this book was pretty depressing and I did not guess most of the characters deaths.    

Lucia was my favorite character in this story; I loved her narration and her curiosity of nature.  I liked that although Lucia lived in a time where women had no rights, she was still able to be strong and courageous.  I did like Tag as well, but I did not enjoy his parts of the book as much.  I really liked that Tag was loyal to his family and was unwilling to sacrifice his father for his own achievements.  I also really enjoyed the supporting characters in this book and was surprised at how attached I became to them.  I loved Castor and Cornelia and found myself worried for their safety throughout the book.  I also loved to hate Lucia’s father, Titurius, who made a good villain.  

I did really enjoy the romance between Tag and Lucia in the book as well.  I am very thankful that there was no inst-love and their relationship grew gradually.  I was really rooting for them to be together, although they had a lot of odds fighting against them.  I also liked that this book was able to explore the topic of freedom and what freedom meant to different people.  

This book was also full of historically accurate information.  I learned a lot while reading this book and it was still able to keep my attention.  I found it fascinating that the author included historical facts at the end of the book and even told readers where her inspirations for certain characters came from.  I found it interesting to read about how she was able to integrate historical information amongst the plot and characters.

Overall, I would defiantly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Pompeii and this time period.  


If you are interested in Curses and Smoke, you may like Shecter's other book, Cleopatra's Moon.   

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