The Smoke Thieves – Sally Green

‘”Everything ready?”
No. This is a figment of your imagination and I’ve been sitting on my arse all day eating honey”‘

smoke theivesA princess, a traitor, a soldier, a hunter and a thief.
Five teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands.
Five nations destined for conflict.
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 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 five 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?

What I thought

I’ve read multiple fantasy stories with a full cast of characters and plot lines that all intertwine and then branch off in their own direction before inevitably coming back together. One of my favourite series is ‘Wheel of Time’ (which I’m due to reread but I just have so many other books to read I keep putting it off). I’m not a stranger to this kind of fantasy, it’s one of the four corner stones of the genre. And yet it is so easy to do badly. Or if it’s done well there will still be one or two characters that you don’t like and whose chapters you want to skip.
I am pleased to say I didn’t have any of those issues while reading this book. Sally Green has managed to effortlessly track the paths of the 5 leads, making each other separate from the others and giving the reader enough time to get to know all of them so that when things happen you care. Brilliantly you are able to see the impact of the world that these characters live in, something will happen in person A’s chapter that impacts person C but person C might not find out for a while, leaving the reader to know more than the characters but still unable to work out how they are going to deal with this looming issue.

Another cornerstone of fantasy is the magic and the rules that come with it. And Green manages to subvert fantasy magic by turning it into demon magic. Demons don’t traditionally belong in the epic-fantasy genre, they are for grittier ugly worlds and bring their own kind of trouble. But here we have a 13yr old demon hunter! MAGIC AND DEMONS!

The ‘Game of Thrones’ comparison I’ve read isn’t fair. It’s getting it because it deals with politics and has multiple characters. However ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is an ADULT series that focuses much more on politics and the grittier darker side, of the undercity, a character is thrown out of window because he saw incest!sex in the first couple of chapters. This book doesn’t try to be GoT, it has a difference pace and focuses on other things – plus it’s YA so yes characters are aware that sex is a thing and I’m sure some of them have had it (although not Tash – she’s 13), but that’s not what the book is about.

There’s no denying that this book does have a slow pace and there were a couple of times where I wanted ‘things’ to happen, however almost all epic fantasy suffer from this. The opening of LotR is slooooow until Rivendell, The Eye of the World (WoT 1) is mostly just walking from one town to another. You need those slow moments so you get to know everyone, people complain that the first hobbit film is mostly 13 dwarves eating – and yet by the end of the film you know each and every dwarf and how they are different from the others. The book only focuses on 3 or 4 of them and even then the differences are mostly the colour of their cloak.
I don’t think the pace is an issue as long as you know what to expect when you start, it’s actualle much faster paced than most fantasy books because it’s YA.

Why I read it

This is the last of the books that I read before YALC 2018. I finished it on the train to work in the morning before going up to London that evening. Also it’s been a long time since I’ve read this kind of fantasy with multiple characters and plots all intermingling, and I was due a return to the genre.
The fact that it happened to be YA and the author was going to be at YALC was the reason it appeared on my radar when it did. But I’d like to think that it would have appeared at some point because this is so up my street that it’s pretty much my next door neighbour

Final thought

This is the feel of the first book in an epic series, it does have a slow pace as things start to fall into position and you get to know the characters. And there’s the beginning of a love triangle which I’m never particularly fond of. But the pace just allows you to truly get to know what makes each of the 5 protagonists tick and the ‘issue’ with the love triangle is on me and not on the author.
I can’t WAIT to see where this series leads, the 2nd book is due out in August and I will definitely be ordering it – unless I’m able to pick it up early at YALC (which would be awesome but I’m not holding out for it). This has all the signs of a well written awesome epic fantasy with strong female characters, demon magic, and coming-of-age/coming-into-yourself/growing-in-confidence. What more could this fantasy reader look for?
Plus it’s not 800+ pages long so it’s much easier to carry around and persuade other people to read.


Did I enjoy it? Like I said, this book is practically my next door neighbour, if I didn’t like it there would either be MAJOR issues, or I must have just had a brain transplant
Would I read it again? I’m planning on rereading it before reading the 2nd one to remind myself of all of the various characters and their individual arcs.
Am I glad I read it? 😀
Would I recommend? Always

2019 Challenges

PopSugar: should be turned into a film, multiple POVs


Let me know what you think, I’ve read a number of mixed reviews for this one. But I had great fun with it and am looking forward to my reread


P.S The next review is ‘A Long Shadow’ by Caroline Kington

2 thoughts on “The Smoke Thieves – Sally Green

  1. Awesome review. I’ve added this to my TBR list. I’ve been looking for a new fantasy series, and hopefully this fits the bill. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!


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