Review: Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter (4 Controllers)
I received this book for free from the mentioned source in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.
Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by: Scholastic on 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Ancient Civilizations, YA, YA Historical, Young Adult
View on: Goodreads
Grab it: Buy on Amazon
About the Book:
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?
Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii is filled with everything I was looking for. Accurate historical information, romance, adventure, and an exploding volcano. What more could you ask for?
The historical fiction novel by Vicky Alvear Schecter follows Lucia and Tag just weeks before Mt. Vesuvius explodes and destroys all of Pompeii. Lucia is the daughter of a man who owns a gladiator school in Pompeii. After her mother died a few years ago, Lucia was left with only her father for family. With Lucia being the only surviving child, the pressure is on to find a wealthy husband. Too bad her betrothed is 45 years her senior.
Tag is the son of the healer for the gladiator school, and has just returned after three years away. Now that he is back, he is determined to earn his freedom in the ring as a gladiator. But with his father’s health declining, it seems as though Tag is destined to become the next medicus for the school. He also is given the task of babysitting Quintus, a patrician who has decided to spend some free time playing at the role of gladiator.
I am always a fan of a historical fiction novel that’s done really well, and Curses and Smoke did not disappoint. The history behind Pompeii has always been something that’s really fascinated me, so reading a novel that takes place a few weeks before the city gets destroyed was really exciting for me. Also, Schecter has a section after the novel has finished where she lets the reader know where she got her sources.
Aside from the historical accuracy, the book was really well written. The chapters alternated between Lucia’s point of view and Tag’s point of view, which I enjoyed. I was entertained throughout the entire novel, the pacing was done really well, the imagery was great, the characters were well done. It was all great.
If I had any problem with the novel at all, it would be with Lucia. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a sweet character, she loves completely, and she tries to do the right thing. She even begins to have moral dilemmas about slavery, especially when it comes to Tag. But at the same time, she can be naive to a point where it gets to be annoying.
Tag was the character I sympathized with the most. He’s a slave in a household where his master hates him, and he’s in love with Lucia, a woman he can’t have and who is betrothed to someone else. He must take care of his elderly father, who is having severe memory problems, as well as healing the rest of the gladiators. And he has some rich man playing at being a gladiator, while maintaining his freedom.
Overall, I’m giving Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii 4 out of 5 controllers. If you love historical fiction with a hint of romance, and a lot of impending doom that no one seems to be aware of, I would highly recommend this novel.