CBR14 Bingo: “Star” – Astronomy used to calculate where a ship on the ocean is located and where it’s sailing to is an important driver of the story.
I’ve grown to quite like author Django Wexler’s work. But somehow I missed that he released an entire YA trilogy between two adult series. Book one, A Ship of Smoke and Steel, was picked up on the next trip to Mysterious Galaxy. Ted got to it first and devoured it in days. Then he was thrilled to learn that the whole series is already out. A follow up trip to the bookstore brought home books two and three.
Isoka and her younger sister, Tori, grew up in the squalid and crime ridden 16th Ward of Kahnzoka, in the Blessed Empire. Their world changed when Isoka’s Melos talent awakened. Melos grants her access to the combat well of sorcery giving her the ability to generate magical swords and an energy armor. There are nine wells of sorcery: Fire, Force, Combat, Perception, Speed, Shadows, Mind, Life (the forbidden well), and Spirits (the lost well). Isoka uses the Melos tools ruthlessly to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld. By dirtying her hands as an enforcer, she is able to move Tori up to the 2nd Ward, a place of wealth, privilege, and safety.
The Blessed Empire keeps tight control over mage-bloods so the sisters guard Isoka’s secret. Secrets can’t be kept forever and Isoka is brought in by the Immortals (rogue mage-blood hunters) and given an impossible choice. Take over Soliton, a ghost ship out of legends, or her sister dies.
The Soliton is quite real, a mysterious and massive monstrosity of a ship that slowly circumnavigates the known world, and has been for hundreds of years. Every so often it makes port and expects tithes of mage-bloods to be given. Those collected never return. Failure to tithe results in complete obliteration of the port city.
Isoka is quickly bundled off and finds herself once again at the bottom of a cruel social structure. This one divided into hunting packs, leaders, bosses, and the Captain. To have any hope of taking control of the ship, Isoka will need to use her thug experience to maneuver and fight her way up the ranks. But first she’ll have to survive the horrors of Soliton itself. A ship infested with a variety of vicious monsters.
When I asked Ted what he thought of A Ship of Smoke and Steel his response was that “It’s very Django Wexler-y”, and I agree. Isoka isn’t his first primary female protagonist, that’s some type of fighter, to fall in love with another female character who is more pacifist and incredibly smart. Beyond that main lesbian romance, he always includes other LGBTQ relationships, which I appreciate. Wexler does good worldbuilding. The magic systems and interactions with technology are interesting and combats are always exciting. This book holds up to those expectations I’ve come to develop from Wexler’s other works. I found A Ship of Smoke and Steel to be a fun, past paced read, and excellent much needed distraction.