Ship of Smoke and Steel

Tor Teen. (Wells of Sorcery: Bk. 1). Jan. 2019. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765397249.
Gr 10 Up–The first in a trilogy, this fantasy chronicles the adventures of Isoka, a ward boss in the lowest slum of Kahnzoka—a fantastic Japanese metropolis. The book opens with Isoka killing everyone inside an illegal gambling house. In this battle, Isoka reveals her greatest gift and her greatest danger—she is mage-born, able to summon magical blades from the Well of Melos (Combat). Isoka uses her gift to kill those who cross her employers. She is driven in her violent ambition to provide for her sister Tori, who lives in luxury and ignorance of Isoka’s work. Isoka’s brutal but lucrative world collapses when her power is discovered by the Immortals—the emperor’s elite magical soldiers. Taken prisoner by the Imperial spymaster, Isoka must board the ghost ship Soliton and steal it for the empire to save her sister’s life. Isoka must immediately defend herself, and soon she is fighting for the lives of her hunting pack against vicious creatures as well as other mage-born fighters. As Isoka climbs the ladder of the ship’s command structure, she discovers startling secrets at Soliton’s heart and transforms from gangster to hero, striving to save her own life and that of everyone close to her.
VERDICT This girl power–infused fantasy offers gripping action and an intriguing plot. Graphic depictions of violence and frequent sexual references make this a choice for older teen readers.

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