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A Fight worth fighting: A “Ship of Smoke and Steel” Audiobook Review

If I’m being completely honest, this book wasn’t even on my radar until a friend of mine continued to gush about it on my bookstagram posts. She mentioned it no less than 6 times, so obviously – I NEEDED to know why she was so into this book. Thus began my journey down the Wexler Tunnel!

★ ★ ★ ★

Authors: Djanga Wexler

Publisher: Tor Teen

Format/Source: Audiobook

Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Audible

From GoodReads: In the lower wards of Kahnzoka, the great port city of the Blessed Empire, eighteen-year-old ward boss Isoka comes to collect when there’s money owing.
When her ability to access the Well of Combat is discovered by the Empire—an ability she should have declared and placed at His Imperial Majesty’s service—she’s sent on an impossible mission: steal Soliton, a legendary ghost ship—a ship from which no one has ever returned.
If she fails, her sister’s life is forfeit.

The Book Dragon Breaks it Down…

This was another one of those WOW! books. The novel started off with me absolutely disgusted with the main character. She has absolutely no moral compass, aside from wanting to protect her sister. It was easy to see that Isoka was dedicated to her through and through, willing to do anything necessary to secure her future. It’s a typical trope used in YA fantasy, but it was well executed in this case. The emotion that leapt from the page and into my mind, my soul, made me feel for how desperately Isoka wanted her sister to be free from the horrors of the world she lived in. On the other hand, I felt like Isoka was keeping her sister in her own form of a prison, kept in a house where she knew nothing of the world around her. I felt like this could be just as damning as the world that Isoka was forced to survive in.
The side characters are fantastic! They really propelled the story forward. As vicious as Isoka was, characters like The Butcher were even nastier. The Butcher made my skin crawl. I am picturing a slimy, swiney old woman with rotting teeth as I write this. The pack that Isoka gains is a fun one, the characters always adding a lightness to the story that would otherwise be missing. Jack and Thora were adorably delicious and Meroe was just sublime. I fell in love with her character quickly.
The world it was set in was breathtaking. Even via audiobook, I was able to explore and understand the vast world of the ship of Soliton. The ship felt as though it was living and breathing, not a vessel. This was an interesting take on both a prison and a ship. The ship itself was a real character in the story. I would love to see more about the ship in the future books! I also enjoyed the lesbian relationships in the novel. This was a huge selling point for me.
One of the things I found most intriguing and complex was the magic system. The wells, as they called them, were vast and combinable. The idea that one person could be “touched” by a power reminded me much of the Jedi style Star Wars power. This was further solidified by the way that Isoka’s combat power flares to life. The magic system in SoSaS is definitely a plot point, and I’m eager to learn more about it.
The book’s pace was set almost immediately and it was a pleasant mixture of high energy action and even narration. Every chapter had some sort of action in it, and it made the book easy to continue. While there were times it felt a bit rushed, I understood it was done purposefully and not just to finish whatever was going on. The quickness of some of the scenes really left a lasting impact on me. They were lightening fast, but held so much emotion and power.
The biggest complaint for me was the editing/grammar issues, and plot holes I seem to be unable to let go of. I am HOPING that these plot holes are just opening for the subsequent novels to fill in!
Over all, I really enjoyed this novel – and the narrator. It is easily a 4/5 star read!

tl;dr

Ship of Smoke and Steel is a fast paced, moral obliterating novel of power and freedom. With a diverse cast of characters, a plot that keeps you turning the page, and a MC that you love to hate – this book takes you a ride through the oceans while never leaving your seat. If you are a fan of LGBT fantasy, dark YA, or just love a good rotten pirate book, this novel is for you! Wexler’s first entry into the Wells of Sorcery has landed a solid 4/5 star rating for me!

About the Author:

Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.

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