"He ran like the monster he was. And the smoke followed."
GIMLORE is a single mother and war veteran turned crime boss set on protecting her family and her town.
ORBERESIS is a petty thief pretending to be God to protect a terrible secret.
REDNOW is the world's most feared mercenary, but his best days are behind him and there's one job left to do.
In a world of dangerous monsters and devastating smoke magic, the seeds of war are being planted. Allies must be treasured and enemies defeated.
The Smokesmiths is a gritty epic fantasy series with a harsh world of smoke magic, alien creatures and ancient secrets where characters do their best to come out on top. Peace will not last.
Seeds of War is the first installment of the gritty epic fantasy series The Smokesmiths, written by João F. Silva. A book that has been on my radar for a long time, as I'm a big fan of the genre (nothing like a good grimdark novel), and which has fulfilled my expectations, being a character-driven story, with morally questionable characters, and that hooked me from the first page until the end.
In this story, we are going to be following three characters whose arcs will end clashing in the final conflict, and that represent very different aspects of the human condition. Morally grey, non virtuous characters.
Gilmore, leader of a settlement in a continent that appeared after the end of the Crimson Wars; mother of two, and a woman that has lived war. She has turned into a crime boss in order to protect the settlement and her freedom from the different kingdoms looking to colonize this new continent. The fact they are the only producers of a elixir that brings strength and that might become a deciding factor in future wars only endangers the independency they wanted to get.
Rednow, commander of the Leeth, a really valued group of mercenaries, and a smokesmith. While has been leading them with great success, he's starting to feel tired of the mercenary's life, looking to retire after some jobs. Once we start going deeper into his past, we get to see how the memory of her sister is haunting him, marking many of his actions. A man that is not afraid of violence, but who at the same time is also trying to take care of the members of his group.
Orberesis, a petty thief that was identified as a god after the orb he was carrying created a new continent, marking the end of the Crimson Wars. Probably the most interesting character for me, as we can see how he's mentally ill, and how the adoration he's getting due to his "divinity" is messing with his mind. Said that, he could be called a manipulative and cruel person, and won't be wrong; we become spectators of how he uses his influence just to gain power and to get rid of the people he hates.
The production of a mysterious elixir in Gimlore's settlement becomes the angular plot key that will weave those three stories together; leading to a conflict where our characters will have to fight to defend the things they value, and that will end marking the start of a new power fight that seems to be the focus of future books.
While I enjoyed the prose pretty much, I have to say that in particular there's one aspect I feel dissonating with the rest, which is how some modern expressions were introduced into the dialogue. It broke my immersion sometimes, in a book that is excellent at keeping you hooked for its 500 pages.
This sensation of having an unputdownable book is reinforced by how well-balanced the pacing is, starting slowly and building a foundation that in later sections will be key to having faster-paced sections.
The world was pretty original, with big touches of flintlock fantasy, remembering me a little to The Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Magic system fits perfectly, and while it's halfway between a soft and hard system, I feel Silva integrated it well, balancing its power with some disabilities (and the process of becoming a smokesmith is certainly atrocious).
If you like gritty fantasy, Seeds of War is an excellent novel for you. Fans of Abercrombie or Brian McClellan should take a look at it, because you will certainly enjoy what you are reading. With the ending, I can only wait for a second book that answer some questions!
João F. Silva
João F. Silva was born in a small town in Portugal but now lives in London, with his three feline co-workers/bosses. He writes Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror and has been on the jury for the 2020 and 2022 editions of the Best Newcomer Award at the British Fantasy Awards. His short fiction was published in Grimdark Magazine and Haven Speculative.
His novel Seeds of War is the first installment in the upcoming Smokesmiths series.