SFINCS Review: Ruins of Smoke by Joao Silva

Today’s review is about RUINS OF SMOKE by João F. Silva. It is a novella within The Smokesmiths series. It jumps right into the action of saving an empire from an evil entity, with a very cool magic system to boot.

SFINCS logoThis review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.

Author: João F. Silva
Series: The Smokesmiths Book 0.5
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publish Date: August 27, 2023
Print Length: 121
Purchase: Amazon

Official Synopsis

The Usharian Empire rules the Known World with an iron fist. Imperials protect their world from the tainted hand of the Deceiver, but he is back with an avatar capable of breaking the Empire and grounding humanity into ash.

JEHA is a sentinel of the Empire, willing to fight and die for kinship and duty.

AGOR is an imperial general. Disgruntled by the darkness he sees seeping into everything he loves, he makes his move.

MATALA is a young smokesmith who sees his courage tested as Ushar burns.

ALAMAKAR is the world’s most powerful man, but even strong blood ties can hold him down and tear him apart.

As the Deceiver threatens the Usharian Empire’s heart, fiends walk the streets of the capital. Men and monsters clash in a battle fit for gods. And the smoke follows them.

My Review

RUINS OF SMOKE drops the reader right into a serious battle ongoing in the Known World. Overtaken by demons summoned by the Deceiver, an avatar of an ancient entity, various factions of the Usharian Empire fight back to save their city and way of life. They also fight to protect Alamakar, the Red Sun King who is an avatar of the Essence and foil and sibling of the Deceiver.

Because the reader starts in the thick of the action, the larger impetus or history is a bit lost amidst the gravity of the situation. While I could follow the series of events, I do wish I had a little more background to better appreciate the richness of the world. However, the characters are quite imaginative and the battle scenes well executed. I found myself wondering what would happen next. And I liked that the author wasn’t afraid to write about some characters’ demises.

RUINS OF SMOKE has several points of view, as indicated in the official synopsis. The magic system is incredibly intriguing. There’s The Essence, which is an entity that controls nature and lends her power to the king and his sentinels to protect the empire. Of course, there’s the Deceiver, who manipulates time and also lends his power to his chosen avatar. And there are smokesmiths who essentially burn to death temporarily to use smoke as a weapon. The battle between the two avatars strongly reminded me of The Legend of Korra, which follows Avatar: The Last Airbender. So if you enjoyed the avatar animated series, RUINS OF SMOKE is reminiscent of that, but with more adult elements.

Finally, I also liked the writing style. It’s not overly prosaic and each point of view has a distinct voice and tone. I particularly liked Jeha’s point of view, who is a sentinel of the Red Sun Army, because of the cohesiveness she has with her sisterhood of sentinels. Overall, I enjoyed RUINS OF SMOKE with its action-packed story and well-developed magic system.

Rating: withheld
Content warnings: death
Reading format: Kindle e-book

One thought on “SFINCS Review: Ruins of Smoke by Joao Silva

Leave a Reply