Curses and Smoke

Vicky Shecter and Liza Danielsen

The Last Tremor


Curses and Smoke by Vicky Shecter is set in the town of Pompeii, in 79 AD. The book takes place around the time of the volcanic eruption. Lucia and Tag are the protagonists. Lucia is unlike all the other Roman girls, she is interested in science and things happening around her. Tag is a medicus slave owned by Lucia’s father, Lucius Titurius. A medicus is the ancient Roman way of referring to a slave who is a healer. Lucia and Tag are in love but can’t be together because Tag is a slave and Lucia is his master’s daughter. They both risked their lives for each other and that’s what makes this book truly powerful

You can’t always have what you want, that's what a lot of this book is about. The two main conflicts in Curses and Smoke are, Lucia and Tag can’t be together, and that Pompeii is having recurring tremors. The first conflict is character vs. society because Tag and Lucia can not be together since society wouldn’t approve. Even though they make efforts to be together, if they are found with each other, there will be severe consequences, especially for Tag. The second conflict is Character vs. Nature, because the tremors and the eruptions are natural disasters, but are affecting and scaring the whole village of Pompeii. The conflicts in this book are what make it such a roller coaster.

The climax of this book is at very end. The town of Pompeii is swarming with ash and it looks like it’s the dead of night, when it’s the afternoon. Lucia and Tag find this as their chance to run away. While running, they take Castor with them, who is a young medicus slave that Tag took under his wing earlier in the book. Castor looks up to both Lucia and Tag. While the three of them are running away they watch their city of Pompeii corrupt. The resolution to the book is very sad. Lucia’s father falls off a cliff to his death which sets them free, but before he falls he attempts to kill tag but misses and kills Lucia, his own daughter. Lucia lets Castor and Tag live a free life.

Lovely Lucia

Lucia is the protagonist in the Curses and Smoke. She is one of the two main characters. Her father disapproves of her because he wishes she would be like the other Roman girls and wishes her brother stayed alive instead of her. Her brother died as a soldier somewhere in Germany. Lucia is 16 and her father owns many slaves. She is betrothed to a man much older than she is and is doing anything and everything she can to get out of it.

Lucia is very unique from other girls in Pompeii. She loves to read and write and she has a special place in nature that she likes to sneak out to when she can where she records her thoughts on wax tablets and makes observations about the tremors and everything unusual happening.

On page 17 the text says “They both knew she’d never been any good at the skills all Roman girls were supposed to master.” This quote shows she is unlike all the other Roman girls, normal Roman Girls would never be out in nature studying, observing, and reading. Something else that made Lucia different from everyone in Pompeii was that she didn’t like how the slaves were treated. She treated them with much more respect than any other would, and feels sympathetic for them when they are being treated wrong. Lucia even feels empathetic for slaves sometimes because she has no freedom in saying who she wants to marry, and is being forced to marry someone she doesn’t want to.

Turning Points


  • “betrothed” assigned marriages

  • “domina” and “Dominus”

  • gladiators

  • shrines for gods everywhere (in houses, in markets etc.)

  • females treated differently

  • food

“‘In a matter of weeks, you’ll be Vitulus’ wife.’ Her betrothed picked up his goblet” (pg 1) "'I have convinced your father to break your arrangement with Vitulus and betroth you to me instead.'" (pg 203)

“We’ve gone over this, Dominus. We’re getting a new group of fighters as soon as little domina is married” (pg 8) In Latin Dominus means owner or master, and domina translates to a noble woman, in this case, the masters daughter.

“Free citizens who want to train with gladiators had to sell themselves to the ludus and agree to be treated like slaves” pg 51 “train with the brutes your father owns” pg 50 referring to gladiators, which are fighters owned by someone (by choice), in this case Lucia’s father. In Ancient Rome a ludus is a gladiatorial school.

“Lucia marched toward the kitchen hearth and the lararium, the household shrine” pg 32 “They walked in silence, dodging the people moving to and from Venus’s temple and altar.” pg 68

“part of your problem is that you read too much. I am convinced that it has corrupted your female mind.” pg 31 “They both knew she’d never been any good at the skills all Roman girls were supposed to master” pg 17

“‘To begin, we have milk-fed snails,’ she said, pointing to the first plate, ‘some wonderful cheeses soaked in wine and garum, and my personal favorite, squash with minced lamb brains. But leave room for the sow udders later! Now, please --- eat. Eat!’” pg 131


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79 AD- Mt. Vesuvius has its most famous eruption "Pompeii"

203 AD- Mt. Vesuvius erupts for the first time after "Pompeii"

1631 AD- Mt. Vesuvius erupts causing almost continuous eruptions-23 times in the next 284 years

1748 AD- Town of Pompeii and body shells discovered under the ash

1864 AD- Giseppe Fiorelli, the director of excavations discovered a technique that allowed the body shells to be preserved

1944 AD- Most recent Mt. Vesuvius eruption