Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 448 pages
Source: Edelweiss ARC
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. . .
Protagonists: What I found most interesting about this Fantasy Romeo and Juliet retelling is that Romeo and Juliet aren't our main protagonists, instead they find themselves accidentally bound to our main protagonists. Paris never expected the chance to be bound to the Juliet, but after his only and most fierce competition Tybalt is killed he has to step up and take his place. However, before the ritual to bind Paris and the Juliet together can take place, Juliet runs off with Romeo and when Paris finds them trying to bind each other something goes wrong, it seems Juliet dies, and Romeo and Paris somehow wind up bound together. Runajo (which I could find no way to pronounce that rolled off the tongue well) has devoted herself to the Sisters of Thorn, who work to fortify the city against the Ruining. Runajo wants to find a way to save her dying city and on her search for a solution accidently pulls Juliet out of the Mouth of Death and finds herself bound to a girl who's bitter and angry and ready to kill. I have to say I really liked these characters. They both had flaws, like deep noticeable ones. They weren't pure lights in a deep darkness that were meant to banish all darkness away. They completely moral, but they'll do what they can to save and avenge those they love and have come to care for which I find very admirable.
Romance: So actually there isn't a lot of romance in this book. Barely any in fact. Paris and Runajo have no love interests, at least none of which I could see, and since we don't really get major scenes from Romeo or Juliet's POV it's hard to call that a real romantic plotline. That being said, there are, for lack of a better term, chapters that are told from Juliet's third person POV before the start of the book, and each one goes further back in time and shows her and Romeo's relationship as it is tested, as it thrives, and as it blossoms. It seems to me that this is more than your average insta-love, in fact, while there may be an instant attraction between the two, I wholeheartedly believe that true love came after, even if it did come rather fast.
World Building: I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the world building of this book. First, let me say that the world building is so vast and expansive. I mean, this is a fantasy world, and the author did such a great job at crafting it, coming up with the lore and have so many variations on the beliefs of these characters. I mean to see so diverse a cast of characters, some believing one things, others something completely different, or only marginally the same, is fantastic. How the magic system works in this world and everything that goes into not only weaving spells but fortifying them is gruesomely fascinating Then we have the parallels with the source material. I have to say that I wouldn't quite call this a retelling. Most of the story is already complete by the time the story begins, but there is definitely more here than other "retellings" I've read. I loved seeing these characters in a whole new light, though I'm a bit upset that Rosaline's facsimile character has a name change while most of the other major player don't, plus again Runajo isn't the easiest word to pronounce. Now on to the stuff I didn't quite like. Actually, there's only one thing and that's the pacing. I'm not sure why I was expecting a faster-paced story but I was and I have to say this was a sluggishly paced book. Each chapter felt longer than it was and it wasn't until the end that things really started to pick up.
Predictability: I have to say, on the whole, this book was pretty unpredictable. There weren't a lot of huge twists or anything, but it wasn't all that easy to see where the story was going to go. I think a lot of that was tied to the pacing. Things took quite a while to get done and by the time there was a set plot it was already too late and things were happening. I'm looking over my reading experience and I don't think there was anything that I predicted, at least not exactly, and there were some devastatingly huge twists too.
Ending: Going into this book I knew that it was going to be a duology, or ar least a duology, but since we only knew about one other book, for whatever reason I thought maybe it'd be a companion series. Before too long in this book though it became very clear that this was just the beginning. I can barely comprehend this ending but I'll do the best I can. There wasn't really a final climax, I mean, there was but it was very well sustained throughout the entire end of this book. There was no real cooldown and as things were revealed, betrayals were made and devastating secrets come to light, I could only think that I need to get my hands on the next installment.
Oh my, there was so much to love about this book. The world building was mind blowing and the characters were so richly balanced. That being said there was a price to pay for such a gorgeously crafted story and that was that the pacing was very slow. However, if you enjoy richly detailed fantasy retellings than this is the book for you!