Book Review: The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

What’s it about?

A princess, a traitor, a soldier, a hunter and a thief.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father, while her true love, Ambrose, faces the executioner’s block. 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 through life. 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 five heroes find their lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of war.

(Blurb adapted from Penguin Books. Thank you, Penguin)

My thoughts

I remember picking up Sally Green’s first novel Half Bad and staying up all night to read it. I remember the next morning going down to my local bookshop to buy the next one, and hovering round on publication day a year later of the third until they put it on display. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this new series, but there was no way I was not going to read it.

For me, this was a bit of a curate’s egg. I loved the ambition behind the novel, and the way Green built an entire world to hold her story. I liked the five different perspectives and the clear delineations between them. I loved the imagination behind the demon smoke and the intricacies of warfare. I especially loved the relationships nurtured, particularly between March and Edyon.

However, I felt it never really got going as a story. I remember thinking when I was about halfway through that surely I was going to get into it now, that something was definitely going to hook me in the next chapter or so. That didn’t happen until the end of the book, and it felt like the entire story was building and building to a climax that only half happened.

Additionally, I wanted more depth in the characters. I wanted to know more about Edyon’s relationship with his mother, and Catherine’s with hers for that matter. I wanted to know more about how Tash ended up with Gravell, and how March felt about the loss of his family. I came away not really sure if I knew anything about the character, and for a long book like this, I wanted more. Maybe that’ll happen further into the series, but shouldn’t it be part of the set-up?

There was also the obvious Game of Thrones comparisons- a white-haired princess sold into marriage to a foreigner by cruel family, for one- but I bet George R R Martin nabbed most of his source material from somewhere, so that’s not strictly fair on Sally Green. I do want to know what happens next, and I will be reading the next one, but I don’t know if I’ll make it to the third.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, I think so. It’s not as instantly gripping as Half Bad, but I think it’ll be a grower.

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green is published by Penguin on 3rd May 2018 priced £8.99.

I received an advance copy to review thanks to NetGalley.


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