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?
Warnings: mentions of torture and mutilation, self-harm, homophobia, physical violence, slavery
I had enjoyed Green’s Half-Bad trilogy (that ending notwithstanding) and I expected to love The Smoke Thieves too. However, with the different writing style and the multiple POVs, it was quite different from that series. Now, the Smoke Thieves has 5 main characters – 2 of them, Catherine and Ambrose, from Brigant, this super chauvinistic and misogynistic kingdom, one, March, who was a slave in Calidor (Brigant’s sibling country, so as to say) while 2 others, Edyon and Tash are from Pitoria. For most of the book, their storylines are separate – Tash and her guardian/partner are demon hunters who kill demons for the (illegal) demon smoke, Edyon steals some of the demon smoke and that’s how their paths cross; Edyon is informed by March he is the heir to Calidor and is being led by the latter and his partner Hollywell to Brigant for ransom; Catherine, the princess of Brigant is being given in marriage to the prince of Pitoria to unite the kingdoms and Ambrose is one of her personal guards/crush.
Now, because the storylines are mostly separate, and are only linked by location and happenstance, it feels like we are reading two different books here. The tone from Catherine’s and Ambrose’s POV sets up a forbidden love sort of story, meanwhile the one with Edyon, Tash and March is a travel story with magic involved. It only merges like right to the end, because the big mystery about demon smoke requires the knowledge from all parties to be solved. But until then, it is slow and involves a lot of unexciting travel. I liked the world-building, though, and the different cultures in them, and how their relations are; it gives the characters motive for their actions. But the characters themselves didn’t always feel fully fleshed out, you know? I wasn’t much interested in Ambrose as a character and while Catherine has her moments, her POV gets stale at times. Tash is probably my favorite; she is also the youngest at 13, but she has spirit to carry on her POV so well. Edyon is cute, bumbly and flirty with March, but I felt most of his POV was only wasted on the travel. Also, some of the dialogue came across as stilted and awkward.
So, overall, while I like the story and world overall, the characters didn’t really hold my attention.
Is it diverse? one of the main characters is a WoC; another main character is queer and a kleptomaniac, while another main character is questioning