When Rosamund Hodge asked whether I’d be interested in revealing the cover for her new book Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, I did something I rarely do: I said yes immediately, sight unseen. Because:
- Her two previous books, Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, have been among my favorite YA retellings
- Both of those covers were gorgeous, and captured the rapturous feeling of her darkly romantic fairy tales
- Rosamund has written so many fascinating guest posts before.
I knew we’d have a treat for our readers, especially having read the synopsis, which says it was inspired by Romeo and Juliet…but with necromancers. (!!!) But oh my stars, I still wasn’t prepared for what she sent. Are you ready to set your eyes upon this vision?
Are you sure?
Just look at this beauty!
The mood of this cover is utterly gorgeous–I love the somber colors contrasted with the scarlet of her dress, and I’m struck by the image and stillness of this girl standing alone with the mysterious hooded figures behind her. What are they doing? Is it some sort of evil ceremony, and is she prepared for it?!
That tag line has me in a frenzy of longing as well. The world is burning, you guys. BURNING.
Here’s a summary of the story, as well as a few words from Rosamund on how this book came to be. Oh, and stick around at the end, because we’re giving away two copies of the very first ARCs available!
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire Synopsis:
When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.
The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.
Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.
Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.
Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . .
Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is a darkly romantic and atmospheric fantasy from acclaimed author Rosamund Hodge. It will be released on September 27th, 2016.
From Rosamund Hodge:
Like many of us, I read Romeo and Juliet in high school. It was the first Shakespeare play I had ever read with vocabulary notes, and so my main reaction was sheer horror at the vast quantity of dirty jokes. But I also thought the story itself was really dumb. Romeo and Juliet are supposed to be the Greatest And Most Tragic Love Story Ever, yet their love seemed to be no more than the worst hormonal impulses (and I was an incredibly judgmental teen), while their tragedy came down to bad timing.
So how did I end up writing a duology about it?
All of my books have multiple origin stories. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is no exception.
This is one origin story: I got a chance at discount tickets to see the ballet Roméo et Juliette. “Okay,” I told myself, “I hate Romeo and Juliet, but I love ballet. I’ll just admire the dancing and ignore the story.”
Here’s what Roméo et Juliette does: it frames the entire story as Friar Laurence’s attempt to end the feud. Romeo and Juliet are still impulsive teenagers, but their love isn’t just hormones—it’s a real chance at creating peace between the families. Romeo killing Tybalt is the most gut-wrenching, dramatic moment in the entire ballet, because that’s when Romeo becomes personally involved in the feud. It’s when he becomes guilty of the same violence as the rest of his family. It’s when tragedy becomes inevitable, no matter how early or late he might have gotten to the crypt.
I watched that ballet and was enthralled. I also instantly decided that if I ever wrote a story about Romeo and Juliet, it would involve Juliet being a semi-brainwashed super-warrior, whose one attempt at independent personhood was running away with Romeo.
Look, I can’t explain my subconscious.
But I can defend it. Because when I reread Romeo and Juliet, several years later, I found that while Romeo spends a lot of time falling to the floor and moaning about Love, Juliet is made of solid steel. Juliet is the one who gets speeches about honor, about keeping her vows and how she is willing to die to do it. She also gets most of the snark. Juliet, basically, is awesome, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. So it makes total sense for her to be the badass warrior in any retelling.
This is the other origin story: I reread Romeo and Juliet for the first time since high school. You heard that already, but here’s what I didn’t mention before: I got to the scene where Romeo is about to go into the crypt, but Paris is there, and they duel to the death. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if they accidentally got a psychic link and had to fight crime together? And by ‘crime,’ I mean ‘necromancers’!”
I. Can’t. Explain. My. Subconscious.
But I can totally defend it. Romeo and Juliet is a story about love and revenge, but it’s also a story about two teenagers who find themselves deeply, horrifyingly alone. Romeo has friends—Benvolio and Mercutio—but he can’t trust them with the secret of his love for Juliet. Then Mercutio dies and everything goes to pieces. While Juliet? She has no one. Her parents are ready to disown her if she doesn’t marry Paris. Her nurse, who helped her marry Romeo, doesn’t understand why she’s upset. And Friar Laurence? He could have gone to the Prince of Verona—the guy who was so totally Done With the feud that he threatened to execute anyone who kept fighting—and told him that Juliet’s parents were forcing her into bigamy. But Friar Laurence is too obsessed with his clever plans; the only way out he gives Juliet is a fake death that becomes real.
I wanted to changed that. So I wrote a novel that starts almost at the end of the play: where two desperate, lonely, lovesick teenagers are ready to die. And then—very much against their will—they are both dragged into living and finding a friend. It changes everything for them. It might even be enough to avert tragedy.
About the Author
Rosamund Hodge loves mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. She writes YA fantasy that draws on two of those things. In her wild youth, she studied Medieval English at Oxford; she now lives in Seattle and writes wildly.
Win an early ARC of Bright Smoke, Cold Fire!
Thanks to the author and our friends at Balzer + Bray, when the first ARCs of the book become available around March, two of our readers will win a precious copy! We’re going to keep this pretty simple, so here’s how you may enter:
- One winner will be chosen from the comments below. Tell us why you’re excited to read the book!
2. The second winner will be chosen from those who retweet Wendy’s tweet about the cover reveal. (Please use the official RT button–if you use the quote RT, we can’t track it. You must have a public profile, too.)
Enter either one you want, although you have two chances to win if you do both options!
Open to US residents aged 18 and up, or 13 and up with parental permission. Our usual giveaway rules apply, and entries will be closed on Monday, February 29th, 2016.
Giveaways are provided by the author/publisher.
I’m wild to know what happens to these two girls and to find out where Rosamund’s revisionist storytelling takes us. If history (and this post!) gives us any indication, Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is going to be a sweepingly romantic and torturous read. Are you as excited to read this as I am?