Saturday, April 25, 2015

Yay for YA: Curses and Smoke

What's this?  Two book reviews within a month?

Let me tell you about Curses and Smoke, by Vicky Alvear Shecter!  (I previously reviewed another of her books, Cleopatra's Moon, in 2011.)

Checkouts: 2
Typical reader: Teens interested in historical fiction and/or Pompeii
Source: The author generously donated this and another of her books to the school library!

Synopsis: Lucia is the daughter of the owner of a gladiatorial school, and is being sold off in marriage to an old man to better her father's status.  Tag is a medical slave owned by her father, and dreams of becoming a gladiator and winning his freedom.  These two childhood friends reconnect and plan to escape Pompeii and Lucia's father, while strange things are happening in nature on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius ...

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

First of all, I would like to thank the author very much for contacting me and offering to donate this and Hades Speaks! to one of my libraries.  I hope I'm not too far behind in writing this honest review.

This is a wonderfully researched novel set at the time of the unexpected, catastrophic eruption in AD 79 that destroyed, yet preserved, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.  I enjoyed the look into the customs and culture of this ancient civilization, as shown through the novel.  The extensive author's note at the end delighted me.  Curses and Smoke taught me a lot about Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and some aspects of ancient Roman life.  As with Cleopatra's Moon, Ms. Shecter has worked magic with what resources were available.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story.  There were times when I felt that it had too many similarities to James Cameron's Titanic, particularly in some ways the couples' escapes were thwarted.  The situations both dragged on.  Overall, though, it was a pretty good plot, with well-developed characters.

I didn't entirely hate the love polygon.  Yes, it was a polygon, not a triangle; there were a lot of relationships intertwined.  There were a few pleasant twists, however, and for those, I could accept the relationship intrigues at work.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novel.  I would recommend it to teens, or middle school students looking for a book for their historical fiction book report assignment.

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