Review: Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter

18692432Release Date: May 27th 2014

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Genre: YA Historical Romance

Format: Hardcover (336 pages)

Source: Purchased

My Rating: 3 Stars

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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?


While I loved some aspects of this book, this was a bit of a disappointment to me. I had high hopes for this one. I love the story of Pompeii, so I was eager to get my hands on this book. It’s very well researched, some creative twists to make the story seem plausible as to what could have gone down in actuality (I know this is fiction, sue me), and a very clear picture of the setting. What was disappointing about this book? The lack of an actual story!! All the historical aspects were spot on, but that was it. Yes, Lucia (whiny as ever and oblivious to anyone’s pain but her own) and Tag have this chemistry…………… She seems to be pretty smart (book wise) and dumb as ever, at the same time. Why must there be these weak willed heroines in books nowadays? She has dreams of running away from Pompeii, he is a slave. She whines about things that makes no sense, seeing she’s rich and all. She doesn’t see how her ignorance wears on Tag’s nerves.

I can’t compare this book to others that I’ve read on the subject, such as PompeiiHarris. When I read historical fiction, I want to feel something. With this book, there was nothing, aside from the different perspective I got about Mount Vesuvius. I went to the theater to see the movie (2014) Pompeii, and that was good. What can I say, I love Kit Harington. This was what I thought this book would be similar too. I wanted the history behind what happened, but not to overshadow the romance part of the story. This was basically a history lesson, that’s all. With this book being historically great, I can say that was the only good thing about it. Therefore, 3 stars will suffice.

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