Fantasy Fans

SFINCS Review: Ruins of Smoke

Welcome to another review as part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship, or SFINCS, which I am judging as part of Team Jamreads alongside a cohort of other lovely judges. For my SFINCS reviews, I will be judging each book on the following five criteria: Characters, Setting, Plot, Writing, and Enjoyment with a bonus point for Cover Art and Formatting. This review contains my honest thoughts and does not represent the opinion or final rating of the team.

This review is for Ruins of Smoke by João F. Silva and is a finalist allocated to Team Jamreads for review.

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.

Find Ruins of Smoke on Goodreads

The Review

Ruins of Smoke is another prequel novella to a larger series, namely the Smokesmiths series that begins with Seeds of War. I’ve not gotten around to reading it yet, but I’ve heard many good things and was looking forward to getting a taste of this dark, smoky world.


The story begins with a large climatic battle and is told from a few different POVs that show the battle from different angles and eyes. We begin with Jeha, a warrior maiden who fights using the magical power of the Essence alongside her battle sisters. I admired her courage and battle spirit. The story then switches to other POVs, including Matala, who is a young warrior using the smoke powers of the Essence to transform into a literal skeleton and struggles to find his courage in battle, and also both the leader of the kingdom and the villain as they battle it out.

I always appreciate a good villain POV, and I really liked the villain perspective here, as you know what, he made some very good points on the nature of the magic in this world. Though these points could probably be appreciated more by readers who are already aware of the magic system and what stakes they represent.


The events of this book take place in the main capital city of Ushar, which is under siege. There wasn’t much room in the story for worldbuilding of the city or its history and why it was being attacked, but the ongoing battle made me picture Leyndell from Elden Ring.


We’re thrust into the siege of the city from page one and the battle rages on until the very end. If you love reading about epic battles and sieges, then this story is probably more for you. The reader is thrown into the deep end and I found myself hanging on for dear life as the battles pressed on with no break in between to catch my breath. I found it hard to get invested in those initial few pages as I had no context for the battle or why I should be worried for these characters. The story itself felt like the ending of an epic saga, which meant I was missing the background details as to what was going on.


The story was well written, though the pace was a bit too fast for my liking. I would have preferred more quiet and reflective moments!


This is another prequel novella that goes into the past events of the world, but in this case, I don’t think it works as a standalone for readers new to the series. There wasn’t enough context to connect with the world or story, though there were some unique elements that made me interested in the main series, specifically the magic system of using magical smoke to conjure weapons and also turn into skeletal warriors. That’s definitely something I haven’t read before!

If you’re a reader or fan of the Smokesmiths series, then this is for you, but it didn’t work for me.

Cover Art and Formatting

The cover is fantastic and shows the awesome skeletal warriors! I love that the book came with a map of the city and illustrated art of the monsters that the characters fight throughout the story. The ebook was lovingly crafted as each POV has their own header art.

Final Score: 3/5

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