'The Smoke Thieves' is the perfect set-up to a Game of Thrones-like saga for younger readers [Book review]

'The Smoke Thieves' is the perfect set-up to a Game of Thrones-like saga for younger readers [Book review]

The YA fantasy novel by British author Sally Greene is the first of a planned series set in a fictional medieval world

The Smoke Thieves
By Sally Greene
Published by Penguin
ISBN 978 0 141 37539 7

In the kingdoms that surround the Pitorian Sea, peace and trust are not on anyone’s agenda. The ruling houses and their politicians compete for power, with murder, kidnapping, and all-out skulduggery given priority in the struggle for dominance.

The ordinary people who inhabit these realms know not to trust their neighbours – or even members of their own family. Treachery worms its way into the darkest of places at every level when the high-and-mighty play their games. Families are ripped apart, and innocents are caught up in the struggle.

This will seem familiar to readers of George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones sagas, but mid- and older teens not ready to tackle Martin’s books now have the perfect lead-in courtesy of Sally Green.

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The Smoke Thieves is the first book in an epic new YA fantasy series, and it is a totally absorbing read. Setting up the stall for a saga as ambitious as the one Green has in mind is no easy task, but the British author pulls off book one perfectly. It’s rare that a reader will be panting for book two right after reading a 500 page volume like The Smoke Thieves.

It starts off with five separate storylines, each involving a different character. We meet a princess, a traitor, a soldier, a demon-hunter, and a thief. Obviously, their stories are going to come together later in the saga, but for now they play out their story unaware of the others.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine is getting ready to marry a man she has never met. This marriage has been set up by her father to strengthen his kingdom. Tash, a young orphan from Pitoria, faces death every day in her job as a demon-hunter and gatherer of demon-smoke that her master sells to rich customers. In Calidor, the traitor March plans revenge on the prince who destroyed his homeland. In Pitoria, Edyon makes his living stealing. And Ambrose is a soldier whose family has fallen foul of the monarchy. He has to flee before he is killed. Ambrose’s sister Anne has been executed by royal decree, and a mystery hangs over her death.

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Each of the storylines in The Smoke Thieves is strong enough to merit its own novel, but that isn’t the intention. These stories are going to collide, and Green is pacing the plot for future revelations.

The Smoke Thieves is gripping from the very start. Here we have that rare thing – a brilliant and fast-paced narrative that we don’t want to end. Five hundred pages flash by. This is storytelling and world-building of the highest order, leaving behind a smoke trail that fantasy fans have no option but to follow.

John Millen can be contacted on johnmillenbooks@gma­il.com

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
The perfect set-up to a Game of Thrones-like saga for readers

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