Curses And Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Curses And Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter | Book ReviewCurses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Scholastic Inc. on 2014-05-27
Genres: Action & Adventure, Ancient Civilizations, Historical, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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?

I have finally read a historical fiction book about Pompeii! Check that one off my historical events list, please. Friends, I was so overjoyed when I found out that Vicky Alvear Shecter was coming out with another book. I listened to the audio of Cleopatra’s Moon a few years ago and really loved it. I thought that Shecter had a real gift for place and time, making history truly come to life. When I was asked to join a blog tour for Curses And Smoke, Shecter’s latest, I totally could not say no. While this came to bite me in the back, as I am writing up this review when really I should be packing for BEA, I want to say that thankfully reading Curses And Smoke in less than 24 hours was not a problem. This is a gripping, interesting book. Also, FYI, I am totally the one at fault as I kind of forgot my blog tour date. APRIL FAIL. Anyways, I just really liked Shecter’s newest book and am pumped to tell you why.

So, the plot in a quick nutshell is that there are two point of view characters, there is Lucia who is the domina of the household, meaning she is the master’s daughter. Lucia is about to married off to a guy who is forty years older than her. Her dad is upper class and runs a gladiator school. The other point of view is Tag. He’s a medical slave and he’s just returned from being not on Lucia’s property. Tag and Lucia played together and were friends as children. Now that they are older, they find themselves feeling this undeniable and forbidden attraction. Oh yeah and they live in Pompeii and it’s the year 79, like, when Vesuvius erupts. And so, if you like romantic books with fairly adventurous plot lines, I am feeling certain you’ll be into Curses And Smoke.

Now, let me tell you right now, there’s totally kissing in this book. Although, I have to say that I wish that there was a little more, hahaha. This stated, I am down with shipping Lucia and Tag. They have that whole old friends thing going on. They’ve also got the class differences which is interesting. I liked that Tag would point out Lucia’s privilege. Individually, I liked that Lucia was railing against her fate. I liked that she has a pretty tragic history with her mom and siblings. I liked that her father was kind of the worst. As for Tag, he kind of holds it all together. He’s very much the hero type and the sort of character who is selfless. At times, he can be a bit boring, but overall, I liked all that he does for Lucia.

Also, real quick I want to put out there that there is an extremely annoying small child in this book named Castor, who OMG, just I kind of could not. Sorry, no maternal instinct for me, yet.

FINALLY the last thing I want to talk about involving Curses And Smoke is the world building. I’ve not read a book about Pompeii before, at least not that I can remember. Most ancient Rome books that I read take place in the city of Rome or in parts of the Roman empire that are not Pompeii and do not specifically deal with the eruption of Vesuvius. I actually felt like Shecter did a great job making this event accessible. She writes about Pliny the Elder and his naturalism theories in an authentic way, weaving it in with Lucia’s feelings about the frequent earthquakes. There’s much mention of gods and a curse does play a big role. There’s also a lot of time spent with gladiator training. We also learn about family and how important childbearing is during the book, too. I really liked how many different historical elements were pulled into Shecter’s book.

Overall, I liked Curses And Smoke. It was a surprisingly quick read and I am shocked that I was able to get it read in under 24 hours. I’d recommend this if you like richly drawn historical fiction novels with a whole lot of romance.

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About the AuthorVicky Alvear Shecter

Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of the young adult novel, CLEOPATRA’S MOON (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.

Author Links


Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, May 26
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review & Giveaway at The Mad Reviewer

Tuesday, May 27
Guest Post & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 28
Review & Giveaway at Fiction Folio

Thursday, May 29
Review at Good Books and Good Wine

Friday, May 30
Guest Post at Good Books and Good Wine

Monday, June 2
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, June 3
Review at Geek Girl’s Book Blog
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, June 4
Review at Book Drunkard

Thursday, June 5
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, June 6
Review at The Book Belles
Review at Manga Maniac Cafe

Monday, June 9
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, June 10
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, June 11
Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, June 12
Review at Let Them Read Books
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, June 13
Review at Broken Teepee
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Um, yes to this book! I’ve never read a book about Pompeii… honestly cannot even think of one right now. This one sounds pretty amazing though! Especially since there is kissing. What’s an end of your world book without kissing? Great review and I’ll have to keep my eye open for this one!

  2. Just reviewed this one today too. I felt the same way about Cleopatra’s Moon, and had to read this one when I saw it. BTW…Castor, although maybe a little nerve wracking, rings pretty true for the “annoying little boy” character. (I had one myself, several years ago.) Great review!

  3. This sounds like a really great book! And such a nice topic!