Monday, May 26, 2014

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

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii
By: Vicky Alvear Shecter
Pub. Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 336
Source: TLA

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 received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first saw this book at TLA this past April, I knew I had to read it. A Pompeii love story? I’m sold! I really enjoyed Curses and Smoke. You can tell the author put in a lot of research into learning as much about Pompeii as she could, including the culture, people, and Mt. Vesuvius. There were so many interesting things that I learned that I did not know before!

The story is told in two different point of views. The first is from Tag, a medical slave who dreams of being a gladiator and wining his freedom and Lucia, whose father owns Tag. The two of them were childhood friends, but as they are older now, that innocent friendship they once shared had turned into something more. These two are as star crossed as they come, since it would have been illegal for a slave and master to get together. To add to their issues. Lucia is set to be married off to some old rich guy who she can’t stand. With the back drop being Mt. Vesuvius and knowing that it is going to erupt at any moment, definitely made it hard for me to think they could have a happy ending, but I was so hoping that they would. I loved how much Tag cared about Lucia and his father. He has only known slavery and had been through a lot in his short life, but he was so sweet and caring, especially when it came to Castor, the little slave boy Tag took under his wing. I also really enjoyed Lucia as a character. Being a women in ancient times was very hard, but I loved how strong and independent she was. I also loved that despite what everyone else said she loved to read, she loved science, and she stuck to her beliefs.

What really angered me about the story was the ending. As I said earlier, I knew it couldn’t have ended well for these two, being that they live in Pompeii on the eve of the eruption, but the way it ended was probably the worst and stupidest thing I have ever read. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but once you read it, you will understand.

I also am really upset that they changed the cover. The cover of the ARC really shows what the story is about. I think the new cover, with a girl looking at an erupted volcano is completely dumb. I will post the ARC cover at the bottom of this post and you can judge for yourself.

Overall, I really enjoyed Curses and Smoke. I also love that the author added a few pages of Pompeii history to the back of the book.

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