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  • Writer's pictureTabitha Tomala

Ruins of Smoke by João F. Silva 2023 SFINCs Book Review

SFINCS 2023 Championship Banner
SFINCS 2023 Championship Banner

This review is part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”. This 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.).

To see more information on my team Behind the Musings check out this post!

Ruins of Smokes by João F. Silva book cover
Ruins of Smokes by João F. Silva

Blurb for Ruins of Smoke

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.


Book Review for Ruins of Smoke

Ruins of Smoke starts readers off right at the beginning of a battle. The Deceiver has arisen and is opening portals for his demons to flood into the kingdom of Ushar. The magic system is shown throughout the battle as each set of defenders uses their unique abilities to combat the demons. From soldiers who wield weapons made of smoke to those who burn away their bodies to fight as undead. Readers will be fascinated by the abilities on display.

Defending against the Deceiver is the Essence, from which the smoke wielding warriors draw power. There is a long standing feud between the two opposing forces, but the reason behind it is not revealed in the novella. The emotion and depth of their feud are felt throughout the interactions of both sides, but a bit more information is needed. Given this is a prequel to a series, the main novels most likely go into greater detail.

The action sequences were brilliantly written though. Despite having multiple POVs, the battle will keep readers engaged as tensions continue to escalate. Each time the story focuses on a new group of defenders the demons grow stronger, or more in number, causing the defenders to push their endurance and abilities farther. And it all escalates into a heart shattering moment of betrayal. This is a great novella for those who enjoy fast-paced and action driven stories.

All or part of this book review may be used in marketing, I only ask that you reference Behind the Pages if you choose to do so.

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