“Lady Smoke” by Laura Sebastian

Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Full disclosure, I hadn’t read the first book in this series before I read this book. I feel like everyone in the world would be happier if a brief summary of the previous book/s in a series was included at the beginning of subsequent novels.

Anyhoo, I digress.

This book opens with Theodosia, the usurped queen of the kingdom of Astrea, adventuring on the high seas with her motley crew of bodyguards and rebels plotting how to reclaim her throne from the evil Kaiser. So it’s the plot of a typical YA fantasy really.

My expectations weren’t sky high but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a page turner this was. There was enough action and intrigue to keep my attention and the characters were (for the most part) a cut above the norm, particularly Heron, Artemesia and Cress. There’s a good dose of feminism and LGBT representation running through the story and I appreciated a plot based more around diplomatic wranglings rather than a ton of battle scenes.

It’s not perfect by any means. The love triangle is a complete nonsense although, I did get a kick out of Theo shamelessly telling two men she loved them and keeping them on the hook with no apparent conflict or guilt whatsoever. The Kaiser is almost cartoonish in his villainy and some of the character names are Sarah J Maas levels of cringey like Blaise. No. Just no.

It’s all a bit silly and all of our beloved YA tropes are here – instalove, characters making completely illogical decisions, the fate of kingdoms being held by teenagers, weird coloured hair, completely baffling magic system.. but..! I actually really enjoyed this one and will probably look out the sequel when it’s published next year.

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