The Smoke Thieves was described as A Game of Thrones for a YA audience, though its multiple perspectives, the warring kingdoms and many character deaths were the only similarities – beyond that, The Smoke Thieves is comprised primarily of common fantasy tropes, making for a rather generic read.
With one of the opening scenes involving actual demon hunting, I expected the demon smoke to play a more central role in the story. Unfortunately, ~80% of the story focused upon the political landscape, with the smoke only becoming important toward the end – a strange choice for a book entitled “The Smoke Thieves“.
I also wasn’t particularly invested in any of the characters, which is a problem when the story is told through 5 different perspectives. Had it been scaled back to even 3 POVs that eventually intersected, I would have been much happier – especially if that involved eliminating Ambrose’s perspective since he spent practically the entire story thinking about Catherine and not doing much else. That said, I did quite like Catherine (when she wasn’t thinking about Ambrose) and I enjoyed seeing her gain her own agency in an incredibly sexist society.
The main romance also left a lot to be desired. It lacked substance beyond the two characters spending far too many lines in their respective chapters thinking about one another, making for an instalove-filled relationship with no tension and even less chemistry.
Overall, The Smoke Thieves was an incredibly ambitious but poorly executed read. A more simplified and focused story could have been interesting; instead, its slow pace and far too many POVs caused The Smoke Thieves to feel like an overly long introduction to the series rather than a finished first book.