My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tash had thought demons were scary, but men could be just as bad.
Oh no, I lost count of how many characters died. Hahaha. I don’t care about Game of Thrones, but fans of the latter might like this book indeed. Reading it was such a delight, especially because I simultaneously listened to the Audible version that featured a full cast of British-sounding narrators.
In a nutshell, The Smoke Thieves is a novel about five unique characters: Catherine, Ambrose, Tash, March, and Edyon. Their world is divided into three kingdoms: Brigant, Pitoria, and Calidor. Brigant and Calidor are at war although their kings are siblings. The said protagonists have different backgrounds (and story arcs), but their paths eventually converge because of a bottle of magical smoke and the machinations of each kingdom. Basically, you can look forward to a lot of political intrigue, Feminist discourse, and even romance.
The first thing I liked about The Smoke Thieves was its pacing. I usually struggle with books with more than 400 or 500 pages, so I was surprised that I had no trouble finishing this one. The chapters were short, and each POV was entertaining. Thus, I felt like I was reading a breezy contemporary novel. However, this book might be overwhelming for readers who aren’t used to multiple perspectives.
Out of all the characters, Catherine and Tash were my favorites. Catherine’s character arc was inspired by empowered historical figures (Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great), and I really enjoyed it. It was fun and enlightening to read about how she learned to resist subjugation in her very patriarchal society. Tash, meanwhile, was such a ray of sunshine. Her innocent yet mature personality as a 13-year-old girl often made me laugh. Her relationship with Gravell, her guardian, was particularly heartwarming.
Another thing I enjoyed was the book’s cohesive plot that was reminiscent of Falling Kingdoms. It was amazing how the author managed to intricately connect all of the characters’ stories. Given the five POVs, one would expect the narrative to be confusing. With that in mind, I was pleased that each POV was relevant to the overall conflict: the animosity between Brigant and Calidor. Seeing the characters come together was nothing short of magical.
I didn’t have a problem with the protagonists, but the side characters were…too inconsequential. They had no development and were practically just names on the page. Hence, the author could just kill them off whenever it seemed convenient to do so. When two side characters, died, all I felt was nonchalance. Pure meh. To be fair, at least one death tugged on my heartstrings. May he rest in peace. Huhu.
Ultimately, I am happy to recommend The Smoke Thieves. I loved the fast-paced plot and the fascinating protagonists. This book isn’t exactly outstanding, but it’s one of those YA fantasy novels that can keep you on the edge of your seat. Happy reading!