Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Schecter introduces us to Lucia, the daughter of the owner of a gladiatorial school in Pompeii, and her childhood friend, Tag, a slave who tends to the wounds of injured gladiators. Lucia is unwillingly betrothed to an older man who will invest in her father’s school, and Tag hopes to become a gladiator and buy his freedom. Mount Etna however has other plans for them. The historical setting is compelling and the story suspenseful. I’d especially recommend it for young readers not familiar with the tragedy of Pompeii.