According to many sources, August 24 is generally accepted as the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and killed many thousands of people living in the city of Pompeii. This tragic story has captured people’s interest and imagination for hundreds of years. I’ve visited Pompeii and it is a haunting and fascinating site – the perfect backdrop for an historical YA book.
Initially, the only YA book that I knew about Pompeii was Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter that came out earlier this year. In this novel, Lucia’s father, the owner of a gladiatorial school in Pompeii that needs money to expand the business, has betrothed her to a wealthy man old enough to be her grandfather. Lucia loves to read but her future husband doesn’t approve of women reading or studying. Lucia’s also interested in the world around her and its natural mysteries, like the frequent tremors and other odd phenomenon that are occurring in Pompeii. She’s in love with childhood friend & slave Tag, born of a noble family that was enslaved and stripped of its wealth. Tag’s a healer who wants to be a gladiator to earn enough money to win his freedom and escape the curse he bears. They plan to escape the city together but are betrayed to Lucia’s father by another fighter. Tag’s imprisoned by Lucia’s father just as Mt. Vesuvius is about to erupt. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?