Published by Penguin on May 1st 2018
Buy on Amazon
“She thought of Ambrose still, every day”
Every paragraph, it felt like.
I’m really disappointed with The Smoke Thieves. I was hoping this would be an opportunity to rekindle my love for Green’s books after Half Bad‘s sequels dampened it. Unfortunately, this is an overlong, generic fantasy story that is spread too thin across its five perspectives.
This book is being sold as a Game of Thrones for younger readers, or those looking for something more easy-to-digest than Martin’s monstrous 1000-page volumes. But if that’s what you’re looking for, Rhodes’s Falling Kingdoms series is much more palatable and manages its multiple POVs far more effectively.
The Smoke Thieves paints in some wishy washy Medieval-style world-building, in which conflicts exist between the vaguely-imagined lands of Calidor, Pitoria and Brigant (map included). Past invasions and wars have fuelled tensions between them leading to the current delicate peace period. Women here are largely viewed as second-class citizens and are expected to be subservient to men.
Into this come our five protagonists. The Calidorian princess, Catherine, is betrothed to Prince Tzsayn of Pitoria, but has some not-so-secret lusty feelings for her bodyguard, Ambrose. March is a servant to the prince and he comes from Abask – a small area of land that was destroyed in the war between Calidor and Brigant – and he longs for revenge. Edyon is a thief whom March is searching for, but they end up falling for each other instead. And Tash is a thirteen year-old demon hunter.
It was really difficult to settle into the perspective of any of the characters with the constant switching between them. The book was spread so thin across them all that I found myself never really connecting with anyone. Five perspectives is often a bit much in the hands of an author who handles them well; when not handled well, it is just plain bad.
There was also very little depth, intrigue or tension. Everything is black and white, with the villains – King Aloysius and Boris – being cartoonishly evil. Sometimes there was literally no reason at all for them to act the way they did. Many of the violent scenes felt gratuitous.
Both romances left something to be desired. Catherine and Ambrose are daydreaming about each other from the start of the book. There’s absolutely zero chemistry or tension between them, no will they/won’t they, and their “love” for one another seems to stem from nothing more than physical attraction. There’s also something of a love triangle going on.
Then there’s the fact that, for most of the book, the demon aspect and the “smoke” actually have very little bearing on anything. I’m assuming this will be developed in future installments, but it seems strange that the whole premise of the book doesn’t play a bigger part.
It was just a boring and unexciting book, overall. I was unmoved by the characters and plot, and it didn’t seem to do anything new or particularly engaging. The use of “fuck” in the Medieval-style setting felt jarring, too*. I have no desire to read on, even though the book’s abrupt non-ending tries to demand it.