Many thanks and much love to WhiskeyintheJar for my awesome book! : )
I know what I'm reading this weekend!
'The Smoke Thieves' had me thoroughly captivated as soon as I started to read it, and I can honestly say I didn't want to be interrupted at all once I fell into this brilliant medieval fantasy that author Sally Green has created. Woven around five main characters, from different walks of life, a story deepens to reveal a war between different kingdoms, an impending royal marriage, forbidden love, long-held family secrets, and the real reason why demon smoke is so sought-after.
The main characters are all wonderfully fleshed out in their nuances and are all given equal page time; the individual chapters follow their movements and whereabouts, whether in the war-mongering Brigant, or the more liberal Pitoria, and they embark on their own personal and physical journeys, keeping this novel action-packed. It's hard not to get attached to their individual situations as we follow each story.
We are treated to a princess, Catherine, who is ready to forge her own path, against the will of her father and brother, and she shows those around her that she will not stand for the brutal ways of her father, the King, and wants to create her own new strong identity. Ambrose is the princess' loyal guard, who has just seen his sister die, accused a traitor, and at the same time as being loyal to the crown, he is wrestling with feelings for Catherine. Then there are the demon hunters, including Tash, at only twelve years of age, she's nimble and fast on her feet (Green says she likes to include a runner in her books because she's a runner herself). The other two 'main' characters are March and Edyon: one who is a servant to Prince Thelonius, caught up in a plot to bring Edyon, a compulsive thief, back to Calidor under false pretenses, but the two of them end up falling for each other's charms.
There are whole host of other minor characters in the story and they fortify the novel with rich dialog and plot twists. Green has also created wonderful contrasts between the different kingdoms and made sure to point out language/accent differences, eye color traits, and clothing styles, and other things that add to the vivid world-building she carefully undertakes throughout the book. Simply imagining the parade leading Princess Catherine up to the castle in Pitoria is just brilliant.
*There is a lot of violence and appropriate blood and gore, as comes with war and fighting (it's medieval times, after all); sword-fighting, spears being thrown and that sort of thing, but there was no unnecessary sexual violence or triggers to warn about. Swearing happens, but that's life.
I honestly didn't want this absolutely engaging book to end, and I'm so glad that the story will continue; the end of the book saw the individual exploits of these characters entwine, and I can see the ensuing adventure becoming even more complex. I'm hooked! Demon smoke wasn't even needed.
*Thank you to Penguin Random House for my early copy of this (epic) book.
I've been thinking about death a lot. And not in an existential way or in a 'oh man she needs professional help' kinda way. I've been thinking about the culture of death and how I'd like my own death to be handled. To that end, I chose a few titles which I'm convinced has skewed the way my co-workers view me. (lol but really) The first is Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. (I'll be discussing her second book at a later date.) This is the autobiographical story of how Caitlin came to work in a crematory and the path that it led her down to discover the 'good death'. It's an exceptionally frank discussion of death but more specifically death culture (or lack thereof) in the United States. Here in America it's a taboo subject. Many people choose to remain ignorant of the reality of death because of a fear of their own (and their loved one's) mortality. Caitlin talks about the current death practices of burial, embalming, cremation, green burials (many different kinds), and donation to science. It reminded me that I should really draw up a will with the specifics of what I want and then discuss it with those who will most likely be honoring my wishes. (And you'd better do what I say or I'll haunt you! hahaha but really)
The truth is we are all going to die one day. Wouldn't it be better to see this as natural and be prepared for it? Having open discussions with those who will be charged with taking care of you after you have died makes the process less fraught with uncertainties and fear. Centuries ago, death was embraced because it was necessary to confront it head-on. There were no mortuaries like we know them today. The family was the one who cleaned, wrapped, and sometimes buried the bodies. The grieving process wasn't rushed but was allowed to progress naturally. (Think about the last funeral you attended and how the viewing was timed. Nowadays, you have to leave the cemetery before the casket is even lowered into the earth. Everything is orchestrated and sterile.) I don't think it's morbid to plan ahead and to try to make it as simple and straightforward as possible so that in the end it's about the life that I led and not the stress and confusion of what to do with me once I'm dead. 8/10
What's Up Next: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates
What I'm Currently Reading: Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart
This novel involves a range of different characters, all with their own agendas, eventually coming together as war breaks out between rival nations in this fantasy. Tash and Gravell are smoke thieves; Catherine is a princess in a court where women have no power or influence; Ambrose is her bodyguard and then there are the Abask men, March and Holywell as well as Edyon who is a victim of circumstance. Betrayal, death and illegal activity abound.
I enjoyed the originality of the story but did not the simple writing style particularly enthralling. However I enjoyed this enough to want to know how the story progresses.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.