The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
Published: May 3rd 2018 by Penguin
“People dismiss, belittle or ignore women. But when I represent my country I am not a woman: I am a land and a people and a queen.”
A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict.
In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.
As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our four heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?
Once again I was drawn to this book by a pretty cover (I am so very fickle) and stayed for the story. I received an advance digital copy via NetGalley but due to my lack of self-control when requesting books via NetGalley it took me a little longer to get to than planned as I was working through my titles by release date. I was half way through this book when it was released a few days ago and by that point I knew I needed a physical edition of this book a well which I picked up when collecting some other books and when I got back that evening I finished the second half in one sitting (and half a packet of biscuits).
The best way I can describe The Smoke Thieves is a YA Game of Thrones. There are interesting and interweaving multiple POV’s, different continents at war, betrayal and what could be seen as a form of historical fiction with the perfect dash of the fantastical. One marked difference I found with The Smoke Thieves however is that I didn’t find myself wanting to skip or skim certain chapters because I didn’t like or wasn’t interested in a character. Quite often in the GOT books I would often sigh when seeing Sansa’s or Catelyn’s name above the next chapter but with The Smoke Thieves I was excited to get back to each and everyone of our five main characters. Also thankfully Sally Green doesn’t find it necessary to describe a banquet over 10 pages so there’s that too.
The writing style in this feels spot on, there is the right amount of tension and the language used feels right. At 512 pages it’s a little longer than a lot of YA I’ve read recently but it certainly doesn’t feel it and although the story obviously does contribute to this I feel the writing does too in that it flows exceptionally well giving just the right amount of detail and it kept me guessing throughout which I found can be sorely lacking in a genre that can become easily saturated with very similar stories and troupes. The plot weaves together in such a great, natural way and even without the (awesome) map I found it very easy to keep track of where everyone was and how close they were to each other at most times which is a nice change for a fantasy book, I’m usually having to flip back and forth to said map but that isn’t the case here.
Thanks to all the different POV’s the story feels like it stays very fresh and interesting throughout because they are all very different. Our five main characters all fit the roles of the princess, the solider, the hunter, the traitor and the thief with instantly recognisable and eventually relevant headers signalling each of their chapters along with their names and where they were situated at the time was a really nice little touch with some beautiful little pieces of art. Even when in close proximity of each other and sharing the same events they all have different takes on these situations unique to them which gives the story this great extra dimension and honestly each one felt like it could have easily have been a story all of its own.
One aspect I particularly enjoyed seeing and think is worth mentioning is the use of sign language between the ladies of Brigtane, it made sense in the kind of environment they came from and how they were forced to live as well as adding an extra layer to the way their dialogue worked. I’d really like to see maybe a chart of a few of the common or important hand signals feature in the next book if it’s at all relevant because I really enjoyed learning some of the signs.
Overall this book was just a fantastic and interesting read. It was a great start to a new fantasy series without feeling like it was overloading me with too much information but everything making sense still. I was very pleased with the ending as well, the last hundred or so pages are quite emotional at times and tears were shed but although it was in essence a cliff hanger kind of ending and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel it didn’t leave me pulling my hair out which a couple of books have done lately and it honestly just stresses me out. This was an easy XXXXX rating for me and is another book I’m very happy and eager to recommend! I picked up the paperback edition with purple stained pages but I have also been made aware there is a limited edtion purple hardback out in the UK too which I think I’m going to have to get my paws onto as well!
Until next time, speak soon.