Smoke & Summons is a fast-paced story full of demons and thugs, chase scenes and close calls. The magic is intriguing and layered: innocents particularly talented at hosting dangerous demons, and ancient artifacts full of strange powers. The setting simmers with history and lore we only glimpse briefly. I want to see more!
REVIEW of “Smoke & Summons”
Smoke & Summons was my Kindle First selection for January 2019.
I enjoyed how this story started out with Sandis considering her choices between two evils. She doesn’t make that choice easily, and in the end a terrible event pushes her into action—which tends to be a theme with her. For all the potential of a character in a terrible situation, Sandis seems to be acted upon more than she acts, which I found frustrating. She is a classic damsel in distress, but… she’s young, naive, and the options in her world are uncertain. It’s a scary place! And don’t forget that she’s a traumatized orphan that’s been a slave for the last four years…
The world is built slowly, layer on layer, and mercifully free of information dumps. The city’s character lends itself well to having the mysteries of its past and the magical items associated with its previous occupants revealed only a little at a time. There is a sense of arrogance and conceit to its current inhabitants, who moved in, built over, and either ignored or outlawed what came before. We only see things (both magical items and remnants of the city’s architecture) through the eyes of Sandis and Rone as they experience them.
Rone is an interesting character, half rogue and half decent fellow. He has an unfortunate tendency to create trouble for other people and seems oblivious to that. Sure, he’s got some problems of his own, but he leaves chaos in his wake. He’s not entirely irredeemable. Finding himself drawn to Sandis, he takes them—and us—on a tour of the city from the rooftops to the sewers in an effort to get away from the villains. A great deal of the story is spent running away. Lots of running, lots of being chased.
Action packed? Yes, but I kept waiting for the two of them to fight back, and I kept waiting for Sandis to try to use the awesome power she is supposed to have. The concept of the horse-like demon Ireth is intriguing. It’s supposed to be powerful and dangerous, but gets very little page time. I want to see more of this beastie.
Fantasy elements of magic, demons, and the occult are laid out side by side with social issues: slavery, social status, cults, mobs, tyranny, and the church. Theirs is a dark and oppressive world difficult to navigate and even harder to escape.
In spite of this obviously and predominately being a set-up for the next book in the series, I found Holmberg’s writing engaging, the flawed characters interesting, and the possibilities hinted at all strong enough to make me want to read the next volume.
As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her willinto his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.
A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.
Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…
This book is for you if you:
- Enjoy flawed characters
- Like fantasy with a lots of chase scenes
- Are looking for Flinch-Free Fantasy
This book is not for you if you:
- Don’t like damsels in distress
- Don’t like complicated world-building with a slow reveal
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