Smoke & Summons is a brilliant fantasy novel featuring strong worldbuilding, terrifying magic, and a protagonist with breathtaking power. The writing is superb, never faltering as we follow Sandis on her arduous journey to freedom.
The most powerful part of the book is Sandis’ character evolution. Her experiences are enough to defeat the strongest of people and yet she manages to escape. There are so many obstacles along the way but she persists, becoming stronger by the day as she throws off the mental shackles of slavery. Her actions and words become more confident as she refuses to return to the life she run from. It’s inspiring to watch her grow as a character. By the end, she’s vastly different than when she started, no longer a terrified girl but a strong young woman intent on preventing her captor’s evil from invading the world.
Most interesting are the relationships she forms. The man who unwittingly becomes a part of her story follows the path of an extremely flawed hero, helping her at times and condemning her at others. His story adds an interesting layer to the mix, showing us the underside of this vast city and the struggles of poverty he’s faced for more of his life. We also see Sandis’ relationship with her demon grow. It’s a strange concept and it starts to change your perception of this magic and it’s place on the good-evil scale.
That being said, the magic tradition in the world is truly terrifying, filled with demons of every variety. The practice of summoning them to the physical world is as dark and disturbing as you’d imagine and the author doesn’t back away from the gore and carnage. It’s a generally mysterious practice, and its origins were only slightly touched on. I’m hoping we get to know more about this long ago civilization whose religion revolved around these demons.
Overall, I loved Smoke & Summons. It’s a quick read thanks to the excellent writing and characters you can’t help but follow. This is a series I’ll be following until the end.
Smoke & Summons
By Charlie N. Holmberg
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.