Smoke and Summons, Charlie N. Holmberg – Book Review

Hello Humans! I believe I’m right in saying that this is the third Charlie N Holmberg book I’ve reviewed on this blog, with The Fifth Doll and The Plastic Magician taking the first two spots. I have also read Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet but it was a little too strange for my tastes. So, with a new series being published, the Numina series, the question was whether this would fall into the ‘delightful’ camp of The Paper Magician series, or be more on the strange side of Holmberg’s other works?

smoke and summons

Goodreads Summary:

A captivating world of monsters and magic from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

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Reading the summary, I was thinking this was more likely to fall into the ‘strange’ category along with The Fifth Doll and Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet and it would be true to say this is not the (mostly) comfortable, magical romance of The Paper Magician. It is, however, a book that manages to hold it’s own, not drifting into vastly ambitious, confounding worldbuilding changes half way through as the former books did. While this does include another dimension in which there is at least one horse made of fire, it is clear how that world relates to the main setting of the book and where our characters stand in relation to that world. So, anyone who was wondering where this book sat, I’d say it’s closer to The Paper Magician in quality if not in tone.

It’s always a somewhat ‘uncomfortable’ reading experience when you have a white author writing about some kind of slavery. From my perspective, it seemed to have been handled with care, but I would suggest seeking out reviews from people of colour as to their opinion of the handling of this topic.

I thought that the characters, Sandis and Rone in particular, were really great to read. I initially thought that I wasn’t going to get along with Sandis, she felt a little bit annoying at first, but she grew on me as the book continued, the more liberated she was the more I enjoyed her tone. I also thought that the dynamic between her and Rone was great. Does their relationship (friends…or otherwise) grow quite quickly? Yes. But it didn’t feel unrealistic given the circumstances in which these characters find themselves. I look forward to reading more of them in future books in this series.

The plot definitely comes into its own nearer the end of the book, but that’s to be expected in a first book, with the amount of worldbuilding necessary in the first chunk of the book. It did start to feel a little bit samey at times, as is often a problem with books that feature characters on the run, but it definitely picks up towards the final few chapters. It’s left me with high hopes for further books!

A strong world, great characters and some great scope for future books, this is a great new story from Holmberg and if you’re a fan of fantasy I’d say it’s a good quick read to get your teeth into!

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)

What say you? Are you excited about this new series? Let me know in the comments below!


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