Huge thank you to Penguin Random House for providing me with an ARC of The Smoke Thieves to read and review. ♥
Series: The Smoke Thieves #1
Published by: Viking Juvenile on May 1, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: ARC From Publisher
A shrewd princess whose father is plotting against her. A brave soldier turned traitor. A loyal servant on a quest to avenge his family. A streetwise demon smoke hunter in desperate need of money. A charming thief with no clue about his true identity. Their lives would never intersect, until a war between kingdoms bubbles up, and the dangerous truth about demon smoke intertwines all their fates. Welcome to The Smoke Thieves, a tangled web of political intrigue, shifting alliances, and forbidden love, in a world where sometimes no amount of magic can keep you safe.
The first time I tried reading The Smoke Thieves I didn’t finish it. I put it down after two chapters.
A couple days ago I decided to give The Smoke Thieves another shot in case the first time was due to me just not being in the mood. Luckily I actually managed to finish it this time!
Sadly I still didn’t love The Smoke Thieves. For me it was just okay.
Most of the book wasn’t super thrilling. Sure, there were a few mysteries to keep you going, but the whole thing just wasn’t super exciting. There were several different points of view:
- Tash, the demon hunter. Her chapters were okay. She was kind of cute and spunky.
- Catherine, a princess getting ready for an arranged marriage. Her chapters were easily my favourite! I love the idea of a princess going to a new kingdom, facing an arranged marriage, torn between political allegiances, etc. Her relationship with Ambrose was kind of eyerolly (see below) but luckily there was a bunch of other stuff going on too. I particularly loved her interactions with her betrothed.
- Ambrose, the princess’s bodyguard and labelled traitor. I didn’t love him as much as I wanted to. I thought his character was a little cardboardy. It was a great character on paper: a guy betrayed by his country and falling in love with the princess he’s supposed to be protecting. But in practice he just wasn’t that exciting. There’s supposed to be kind of a flirty forbidden romance there but I wasn’t feeling it. Zero chemistry. And Catherine kind of acted like a 16 year old girl and Ambrose more like a 28 year old guy. Maybe I’m totally off but that’s what I was picturing.
- March, a servant seeking revenge on his master (a prince). His backstory was kind of cool but I wasn’t super entertained by his chapters. Mostly just boring.
- Edyon, a kleptomaniac. He was kind of a naive frilly snob. He was probably my least favourite along with Marsh. His attitude just grated on me.
The two biggest downsides for me were the lack of connection/investment I felt, and something about the writing style just kind of kept me at arm’s length. I had a hard time really clicking with this book.
I feel like this fantasy was really “proper”. Everything about it felt kind of refined and picture-perfect. It’s not that everything was awesome, it’s more like every character had their specific personality and place and they played it to a T. There was very little grey area and it made all the characters seem fake. For instance, there’s this character Boris who’s HORRIBLE but he’s almost unbelievably horrible? The things he said seemed clownish. He thinks super highly of himself, is a massive sexist, and treated his sister like dirt. Another reviewer labelled him as “cartoonishly evil” and that’s a great way to put it. I couldn’t even love to hate him; he was just terribly annoying.
In fact, now that I think about it more, I think the synopsis is very telling. Each character has been labelled as something and that 100% seems to define and drive who they are. There’s not much more to each character than how they’re described in the synopsis.
But the best parts were Catherine’s chapters—I was always eager to get to those—and when things finally picked up pace at the end.
If you’ve read and enjoyed Sally Green’s others books (I hadn’t read any) then I do recommend you give this book a shot. If you already know that you click with her writing style then you might enjoy the book a lot more than I did. The ending is actually kind of exciting so there is some potential here.