(Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Penguin on May 1st 2018
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, General, Royalty, Young Adult Fiction
A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict.
In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. 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 four 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?
Describe The Smoke Thieves in 5 words.
Goodness me, Jaime, that’s a tough demand to start off with. The book is 500 pages long, and even the blurb is five sentences. And it’s early in the morning here. Let’s move on to something easier…
How did The Smoke Thieves come about, what was your inspiration? What made you think you had to write this story?
The Smoke Thieves took a few years to get going. I started with a basic idea of a father and son demon hunting team (still a great idea in my opinion), but I never managed to get it to work. It took me a while to realize that the problem was that I wasn’t really interested in demons or thieves and I’d done a father-son relationship in my last trilogy (Half Bad). However I was hugely interested in writing my version of a strong female character and I changed the son to a girl, Tash (and made her demon hunting partner her ‘owner’ not her father) and changed the story to include the character of Princess Catherine. I instantly went from ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ to ‘let me at that keyboard’.
Princess Catherine is the key to the story for me. She’s intelligent and privileged as she’s a princess, but she’s also a second-class citizen with few rights as she’s female. In The Smoke Thieves, she begins to realize that she’s as intelligent and capable of leading as the men who surround her, and it’s the start of her journey to being a ruler.
Was it hard to write from the many different points of view in The Smoke Thieves and did you have a favorite?
It was hard but not because of the five different characters. I love all my characters and love getting into their heads and working out what they’d think and feel and do. The hard bit was much more technical and boring – trying to balance the number of chapters of each character, trying to make it feel as though there was some sort of link between the stories as I moved from the darkness of Catherine’s chapter to the impulsiveness of Edyon. Most frustrating of all was deciding who tells which part of the story and there were a few times when I had to rewrite a chapter that I’d written from Edyon’s point of view, for example, and put it from March’s (or vice versa).
Having said I loved all my characters I definitely preferred to write Tash and Edyon. Edyon is the student with a bad habit of stealing things on impulse. He’s wonderful as a character because he’s basically a nice, harmless guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but who makes a series of wrong choices that get him into progressively more serious and dangerous situations. The challenge for me is to think of increasingly awful things to happen to him! Tash is the lively, confident teenage partner of the demon hunter, Gravell, and they have great and silly conversations, where Tash can seem more adult than Gravell.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any other character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love to introduce Princess Catherine, not to a character from a book but a character from history and that would be Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth inspired the character of Catherine and I think they’d get on well. They could definitely compare notes on difficult dads.
What is one of the most surprising things you learned in your research when writing The Smoke Thieves?
The other historical character who inspired Princess Catherine was Catherine the Great of Russia. She’s amazing! I didn’t know much about her, but she’s definitely worth googling. She did take power and became Empress of Russia. She was intelligent and ambitious and even wrote children’s books!
What’s your favorite part of writing in the fantasy genre?
Coming up with my world and my rules for how it works. I’m Empress here!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Writing is a mix of using your head and your heart, and it’s hard work on both. Write about a subject that inspires you and can keep your interest for the long time it takes to complete a book, but also use your brain to learn and constantly critique your own work.
Tell us 3 random facts about you.
I hate this sort of question.
It makes me want to rebel.
Favorite Song (right now): Grace – Rag ‘n’ Bone Man
Favorite Book (right now): This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay (probably just a UK publishing sensation, it’s about a doctor’s life in the NHS and is wonderfully written, being both funny and shocking).
Favorite TV Show/Movie: (right now)
Divorce (starring Sarah Jessica Parker and written/produced by Sharon Horgan – great acting, great script, just wonderful)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – great script and great acting and, I love that Martin McDonagh wrote and directed. He’s very very good with words.
Favorite Word: Whatever is perfect for the situation (usually the one I think of way too late in a conversation). Actually I really like ‘loathe’ – it sums the feeling up so well.
Favorite Curse Word: Oh, such a wealth of choice, but the one that comes out in a crisis is ‘Fuck’.
The Smoke Thieves is the first book in the new fantasy series by Sally Green. Green has built out five different perspectives in this story and I have to admit, there were some I liked and some I didn’t really care for. It was clear to me that they were all going to eventually tie together, what wasn’t clear was how and, in the end, I liked how Green did it.
Catherine is the princess being forced into a political marriage by her father. She has been raised knowing this would be her fate and even though her destiny is tied to a prince she doesn’t know, she chooses to do what she can to make her life feel like her own. Unfortunately for Catherine, she has also had to come to terms with the fact that the man she loves, Ambrose, will never be hers as that man also happens to be her guard. Because her brother Boris, who happens to be the worst person ever, notices her feelings, Ambrose quickly finds himself in a position where his choices are limited if he wants to live.
Ambrose loves his family but also values his honor and due to some unfortunate situations, is now considered a traitor in Brigant. Because of his new status, he is on the run and no longer able to protect Catherine. Having recently seen his sister executed for treason, Ambrose decides the only thing he can do is try to find out what got her into trouble and eventually realizes he needs to follow Catherine to Pitoria to save her from what he realizes her father, King Aloysius, is going to do.
Tash is a demon smoke hunter and even though she is only thirteen years old (she thinks), she is good at her job. I have to admit, I wasn’t as invested in this story line as I wasn’t completely clear how she was going to fit into the rest of the story. Despite that, I did like Tash as a character and when she did finally jump into the rest of the characters’ stories, it helped but a lot of her chapters felt a bit like filler.
Edyon is a thief but he is also more than that. When he meets a young man called March, an Abask servant looking for revenge, he doesn’t really realize what he is getting himself into. Even though March tells him he is taking Edyon to meet the father he has never known, March has ulterior motives and Edyon fits into his (and Holywell’s) plans for revenge. This storyline was also a bit slow for me even though Edyon appears to be a magnet for trouble. Add to that the fact that Edyon stole something important before leaving with March, things aren’t going to go very well for them.
At the core of this story is the desire for power. Catherine’s father, King Aloysius, has been fighting with his brothers for their land long before this story picks up but the actions he has taken and will take again soon, create a situation where these characters paths are all destined to cross. I appreciated the lead in to the point when they did all connect but there were times that I felt the pace needed to pick up. Outside of the king, the other bad guys were definitely bad and didn’t appear to have a conscience so you know that always makes them that much more worse.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next installment. The characters were interesting (some more than others) and the story kept me engaged and the ending had me wishing for more. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next for everyone and will definitely be picking up the next book when I can. If you are looking for a fantasy that has magic, danger, and some interesting characters, check this one out.
Thank you to the publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
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