Tor Teen recently posted an excerpt of their upcoming novel, SHIP OF SMOKE AND STEEL by Django Wexler. Though Wexler is best known for his adult fantasy SHADOW CAMPAIGNS series, which has long been on my list to check out, his new upcoming trilogy will be of a YA bent. It will feature Isoka, an eighteen-year-old girl and underworld enforcer, gifted with combat magic. When she’s arrested by the Emperor’s spymaster, Isoka will find herself blackmailed into an impossible task: capture the legendary ghost ship Soliton. SHIP OF SMOKE AND STEEL releases January 22nd, 2019.
Although the summary of the novel promises magic, ghost ships and combat, the excerpt provided is surprisingly light on any of these. Instead, we are treated to the central motivator for lead character Isoka: her love and guardianship of her younger sister, Tori. It’s clear that they both have had a hard childhood, living on the streets and avoiding the associated dangers. Yet somehow, Isoka has found a way to provide for them both. It goes well beyond putting a roof over their head. Isoka has installed Tori in a fine manor, with servants and beautiful gardens. Isoka worships her 13-year-old sister, and clearly would do anything for her. At the time time, Isoka believes that whatever she has done to give Tori this life has sullied her to the point where she will never equal her sister in quality.
While I do wish the excerpt had given us a glimpse into the magic system that will govern this world, I appreciate the attention given to establishing the character of Isoka. She’s a young woman who knows how the world sees her and is willing to take that dispersion, if only her sister is safe and well-cared for. Knowing from the summary that her love will be leveraged against her, it’s important that we believe that there is nothing Isoka won’t do for Tori, and thus far Wexler is succeeding on that front. If nothing else, this excerpt has made clear the very personal stakes for the lead character, and has made me curious to read more.
What do you think so far of A SHIP OF SMOKE AND BONE?