Isoka is no stranger to violence. As a boss in the Sixteenth Ward of Kahnzoka, she uses her illegal combat magic to enforce her superiors’ will in order to keep her sister safe. When the authorities find out, they task her with a dangerous mission – to board and take control of Soliton, a legendary ghost ship. But Soliton is a strange ship, and there may be a good reason no one has ever returned.
Ship of Smoke and Steel is a wonderful dark fantasy. I feel obligated to begin this review by talking about the world. The setting of this book is thoroughly intriguing from the city to the Soliton. The ship especially drew my attention, as it is far larger on the inside than any ship ought to be. Between the society and the creatures that inhabit it, the Soliton is certainly a setting I’d love to see even further explored in future books. There’s also a rather heavy theme of violence – in this universe, violence establishes, decides, or enforces many things. The main character is involved in more than her fair share. There are very few reprieves from one sort of violence or another, so readers should certainly take that into consideration.
The main character’s development also enthralled me. In the beginning, Isoka is almost entirely unrepentant of her actions, justifying to herself that it is necessary to maintain her sister’s safety. However, surviving aboard the Soliton forces her to make real connections with others there. As she forms relationships, she struggles with how people think of her and the things she’s done. The juxtaposition of these things forces her to find a middle ground where she never thought there could be one. Overall, Ship of Smoke and Steel was a fascinating read and I’m excited to see where the series goes.
Yours in love and literature,
Content warning(s): violence, death, heavily implied sexual content, referenced rape, suicidal thoughts, homophobia
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