Ship of Smoke and Steel (The Wells of Sorcery #1) by Django Wexler
This was the first book written by Django Wexler that I’ve read, and after doing a little research on the author I’ve come to find that he has written so many different books from middle grade to adult fiction. Knowing this, I have so much more respect for the author going into this book. YA has been one of my favorite genres to read for so long because I tend to find that they are less dry and filled with the aspects that I’ve come to love in the books I read. I love the coming of age tales, the sweet first loves, the journey to find ones place in this world. Even though I am definitely supposed to be all grown up in my ripe old age of 31, I do find that I can still relate to the characters as they navigate their way through their conflicts and I have no shame in loving my YA book obsession. That being said, Wexler did an amazing job with transitioning to a YA novel. There were some heavy topics like sex and rape but they were done with care to not be offensive by any means. I also found that this book touched on so many of the key elements that the book community is actively wanting represented in the books they read. There was LGBTQ representation, PoC representation, and Femenism representation. While this seems like a lot of big topics to cover all within one book, it was actually done quite well and none of it seemed forced or out of place. Ship of Smoke and Steel is a well rounded book while at the same time being a unique and different book all in one.
Set in a fantasy world, this book follows a girl named Isoka who is the ward boss who cares only for herself and her sister. Isoka does all the bloody, gory work so that her sister can keep her innocence and live a comfortable and easy life. But keeping criminals in line comes easy for Isoka through her Melos magic, for Melos is the Well of Combat. In this world there are nine Wells of Sorcery that give the person who has the well power over things like fire, perception, speed, and even the mind. There is also the forbidden well of Life, and the lost well of Spirits. Some people are blessed with the powers of a well, others not. And then there are some that possess the ability to manipulate multiple wells. Isoka has the rare magic of the well of Melos and she uses it to her advantage to keep that which she cares about most safe from those who would cause them harm or sell them into prostitution. But when her magic is discovered, Isoka is taken to the Emperor’s spymaster and is given a mission to steal a mythical ship and bring it back to Kahnzoka or her sister will be killed. Its not until she is aboard this strange ship that Isoka begins to realize that nothing is as simple as it seems. Who is the captian? How does this weird vessel work? How can she steal something that she knows absolutely nothing about?
Isoka is one kickass character. With her Combat magic, she can take care of herself in most every situation and when she is thrown into a bloodthirsty society of rejects, she soon learns that she will have to fight her way to the top if she ever wants to save her sister. I like that even though she starts off seeming like a cold heartless you know what, throughout the book we start to see that she does have a heart wayyyy down in her somewhere and she will do anything for those she loves. This kind of strong female lead was empowering and I instantly was rooting for Isoka to succeed. She is easy to hate, but that also makes her easy to like because she doesn’t sugar coat anything or tiptoe around sensitive subjects. She says it like it is, love her or hate her, she won’t be put off either way. She also comes to find out so much about herself when putting it all on the line, I felt like I could feel the emotions warming within her as her cold heart thawed.
There is a little bit of romance in the book but it is more of a side line to the crazy action packed story. I really enjoyed reading about Isoka and how as she hacks and chops her way to the top of the pack, also she learns that she might not want to get there alone anymore. She comes to care about her little pack of odd characters, and with them she feels like there is a reason to her inner war of emotions. Not to mention a little crush she can’t ignore. The love is sweet and light, and only adds to her character. But even with these feelings surfacing it still doesn’t overshadow the plot to the story. There is so much action and fighting that those slow love scenes are almost like a little breather before chaos ensues again. The pacing of the book kept me flying through it though. There definitely isn’t any of the book that lags. I felt like I needed to take a nap afterwards, because you know, defeating all those giant crabs, and attempting to take over a ghost ship was pretty exhausting!!
I really enjoyed this book, I think that I might have to check out some of Wexler’s other books and see what I think of his other genres. The writing was fantastic, the characters so well fleshed out, the setting was the most unique book I’ve read in a long time, and the story was action filled and so much fun. I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Its fun finding a new author that you enjoy, its like a whole new world to explore, and I think that if its anything like this book then I’ll be in for a treat.
If you liked this book:
I had a hard time thinking of an appropriate book that would be a good recommendation to read after finishing Ship of Smoke and Steel. The closest I can come to a similar book would be Seafire. Both of these books have a different take on your usual pirate ship. Made of metal and with inner-workings that are beyond what we are used to in a ship, both of these books took a new outlook on what we are used to and gave it their own little twist. Both have some pretty fierce females as well so in that regard maybe this is a better recommendation than I originally thought! I think both books can be loved in their own regard ans well. Hope you love them both!
Have you read this book? What did you think of it if you did? Is it on your TBR? What are some new authors that you’ve recently read and loved? I’d love to know what you all have to say!