Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
The Smoke Thieves (The Smoke Thieves #1)
By Sally Green
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read

To Sum It Up: Catherine, Ambrose, Tash, Edyon, and March could not lead more different lives, but they are all about to be affected by the looming war that Catherine’s ruthless father, the King of Brigant, seems to be preparing to wage. In a kingdom where women have no power, Catherine is a political pawn, about to enter in to a marriage arranged by her father. Meanwhile, Ambrose, one of Catherine’s guards, has just witnessed the execution of one of his family members for treason and knows that he could be targeted next. Thief Edyon is wandering through a fairly aimless life until he suddenly becomes of great importance to some very interested parties, one of whom is royal servant March. All demon hunter Tash is concerned about is collecting very valuable—and illegal—demon smoke with her partner Gravell, but it appears that even Tash cannot avoid the turmoil that is about to sweep across multiple lands.

Review: Having enjoyed Sally Green’s Half Bad and Half Wild, I was excited to see that she was venturing into fantasy with her new novel, The Smoke Thieves. My curiosity was particularly piqued by the comparisons being made between The Smoke Thieves and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Like Martin’s ubiquitous tome, Green’s book is set in a medieval world with multiple POVs. There’s even a bastard!

I try especially hard NOT to keep a running side-by-side comparison in my head between AGoT and books billed as the next AGoT. Reading Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire (at least what’s been published so far, haha) has been one of those life-changing reading experiences for me. What I attempt to avoid is reading every subsequent fantasy through the lens of ASoIaF. So here goes with what I hope is an impartial-ish take on The Smoke Thieves.

The novel follows five characters: Princess Catherine of Brigant, her guard Sir Ambrose, thief Edyon, servant March, and demon hunter Tash. Green does a good job of keeping the storylines tidy and tying them together, but at the same time, the short chapters often seem . . . well, short. The frequent POV shifts give the pacing a choppy feel. I also think they inhibit character development; just when you’re on the brink of spending some quality time getting to know a character, bam—chapter over and it’s on to a different POV.

In general, I found the character development rather lacking. For example, while I love how Catherine tries to find any way she can to undermine a patriarchal society, overall her arc feels a bit too cliché. Along the same lines, Edyon plays the thief with a heart of gold a little too well. March was my least favorite of the MCs for not realizing how blatantly another character was manipulating him. Young Tash the demon hunter was the standout here, thanks to her mettle and sass.

The most disappointing aspect of The Smoke Thieves was how light it was on the fantasy. The titular smoke refers to the substance released by demons when they die. It’s usually inhaled as a drug, but our motley crew of protagonists discovers another effect that could endanger them all. That’s not until late in the book, though. In the meantime, the demon smoke (and the demons, for that matter) is just hanging around, waiting to come off the bench and step up to the plate as a major plot point. I was definitely expecting more of a role for the demons and the smoke, and I suppose that was my overall issue with the book: the need for more. More depth to the characters, more substance to the plot, more fantasy elements. This isn’t a bad story by any means, and Green is a solid storyteller. It just wasn’t my type of fantasy read.

All in All: I love reading fantasy for mythical creatures, complex and often morally ambiguous characters, and richly drawn worlds that completely immerse you. Unfortunately, The Smoke Thieves didn’t quite deliver on those things for me.

We love hearing from our readers and do our best to reply. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!