By Cynthia Ayala
“The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.”—Goodreads
Smoke and Iron picks up right where the last novel left off, with the band of rebels separated in their hope to bring down the corrupted leader of the Great Library. So now more than one character is given more time to shine throughout the story. Before Jess was the main protagonist, and it was mostly his perspective that drove the story. However, now things have changed since the band has decided to disband. So now the readers have a deeper insight into the characters who had been in the background. Moreover, it is great because some of these characters, like Khalila, who has always had a strong personality, so to see her finally have a voice is refreshing. She takes charge, leads a rebellion not by force but by words and knowledge. She speaks about peace and about sharing knowledge, and that is what makes her such a compelling character. What’s more is the reader gets to see her action the reader gets to understand her mindset and her narrative as she explores another way other than violence to spur change.
Many of the characters finally get to shine which is essential in this novel concerning the group is expanded. However, the store cannot just follow Jess because the story is not just about Jess. The story is about change; it is about how knowledge is power and how it should be shared; it is about the love of books. That is a concept that expands past one person. To see Caine finally explore that aspect of the story by making the presentation grander and giving other characters more time to shine and a larger narrative, she expands the scope of the novel. Again it is about knowledge and power, but it is also about how knowledge should be freely shared and freely given there’s no privilege aspect in the novel which is very relative to today’s society and what is what makes the novel so relatable. These young adults are striving to form a world where knowledge is shared among everyone, not just a privilege to folks with the money with but to the underprivileged as well. That is not only a very relatable concept, but it is also a relevant one given today’s economic climate. That is another aspect of the novel that makes it so compelling, how its subverts reality and puts it into this alternative fiction fantasy concept without lessening the power and the impact of it.
That is also another reason why this book moves a little faster. It is as long as its predecessors, but the break in narratives keeps the pace of the story moving. Whereas in the previous books the reader somewhat struggled to remember what exactly happened in the previous novels because it dragged on. Here there’s no confusion. Caine summarizes the past events quite well without taking away from the current story. It is fluid and summarizes, capturing those essential climaxes of the previous novels but without dragging the story. That is not to say the predecessors were not good they just moved slowly.
Smoke and Iron at the end of the day is a novel that has a lot of political impact and much power to it. There is also so many twists and turns in plot development and Cliffhangers repeatedly throughout the throughout the novel that keep the reader at the edge of their seat. Those Cliffhangers they do not lose their power by the repetition because they happen to various characters at various points in the novel. So it has the pace has the power to keep the reader compelled and it is wrapping up the story very well. Probably the best part again is seeing the other characters in the novel flourish and develop.