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Advanced Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire – A Dark, Mystical Romeo and Juliet Inspired Tale

Bright Smoke, Cold FireBright Smoke, Cold Fire Advanced Review

Though Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is different than what I expected,  it is a unique study.

As a Sister of the Thorn, Runajo is the only person who believes her city is in grave danger. No one believes her and no one seems willing to stand with her to ensure its safety. As she further investigates mysterious happenings within her order, she inadvertently pulls a girl named Juliet from death’s grip.

Juliet isn’t an ordinary girl; she’s THE Juliet, the protector of her clan.

Romeo is the man Juliet has lost her heart to. Because of rival gangs, happily ever after is beyond them.

Paris is the guardian of the Juliet, a man who feels responsible for her death.

These four people are about to uncover dangerous secrets where death lurks…

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Although Rosamund Hodge’s novels have been in my TBR pile for awhile, until her upcoming novel, I’d not actually read a novel by the up-and-coming novelist. Something about this new novel immediately made me take notice, and as such, I was grateful to have an opportunity to read Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. When you step inside these pages, you encounter an array of content and emotions. Chief among which is the realization this isn’t what it seems. This isn’t a straight retelling and because of this, the author can play with variations we haven’t seen before.

Shakespeare isn’t a world I navigate easily because of the language. However, despite its tragedies, the Romeo and Juliet tale has always fascinated me. The recent Julian Fellowes’ adaptation, for instance, was a shining triumph that helped reinvent the story for a new era.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire relies on the overall picture of the fated romance without actually being a retelling. In fact, this surprised me about the novel. It is almost entirely detached from all we know as familiar with the classic.

What took me by the greatest surprise was how separate everyone and everything is. The novel keeps the fated lovers apart for well over half of the page count, which is something of a puzzle. As a result, this novel veers away from being romantic in its atmosphere. In fact, the only scenes we experience the coupling of Romeo and Juliet are rare “flashback” scenes that thread throughout the novel. The focus is laser targeted on Runajo and Paris as the perspectives we live inside. Even at that, Runajo finds herself bound to Juliet (who is the first “pair” of the POV switch off) while Paris and Romeo team up in a “separate” quest. For me, this made the world and explanations hard to follow, but I’m also willing to concede this may be the result of a distracted reader.

The writing itself is poetic and lovely, and the ending, while coaxing a smile, also leaves us in a curious state wishing to know more. (Rosamund’s website does say this is the first of a duology.) I suspect if you’ve enjoyed Rosamund’s previous novels (Cruel Beauty, Crimson Bound), you’re sure to enjoy Bright Smoke, Cold Fire.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire will be available September 27th wherever books are sold.


Romeo and Juliet
Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld) and Romeo (Douglas Booth) pledge their love to each other. Photo: 20th Century Fox

Aside from recommending whatever your favorite version of Romeo and Juliet is (the 2013 adaptation is romantic and pretty), a film adaptation would likely make for an excellent pairing with this particular book.


Four corset rating

“Hello, Gorgeous.”


three heart rating

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a

matter of chance.”

Book Info:

Page Count: 448
Publisher: Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins)
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Re-telling
Add Here: Goodreads
Author Website: Rosamund Hodge
Buy on Amazon

Thanks to HarperCollins for the complimentary review copy of Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, sent for review consideration.

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By on September 1st, 2016

About Rissi JC

Rissi is a self-diagnosed Bookaholic and TV fandom addict. She’s currently an avid blogger and reader who enjoys interacting with readers, and often dreams about finishing her first novel. When not writing or reading, she can be found working as an INSPYs advisory board member or contributing to e-zines. Her scribbles are housed on her blog Finding Wonderland (https://www.rissiwrites.com).

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