1.99 Kindle sale, May 5, 2019 Pretty good YA fantasy, the start of a new series the second book has just been published 3.25 stars Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature Smoke Summons is the start of a new YA fantasy trilogy by Charlie N Holmberg, with an interesting, rather dark occult concept underlying it Demons and spirits, called numina, from the ethereal plane are able to be summoned and controlled by those who know the necessary rituals, which include painfully branding a person s back with golden script and tattooing the demon s name in blood above it Kazen, an evil man in his sixties seriously, he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever has figured out a system to use these ancient powers for his own ambitions he finds teens and children who have no family to protect them and who have the qualities necessary to be a vessel for a demon good health, no piercings, virginity and a cryptically described but vital quality called an open spirit and enslaves them Then he can trot out the demon at will to terrorize and injure people so they ll do what he wants, like sign over certain assets to him What Kazen is doing is also highly illegal, so if any of his young vessels gets caught by the police, it s an immediate death sentence for them, despite their innocence.One of Kazen s slaves is our 18 year old heroine, Sandis, who s been chafing under Kazen s control and cruelties Though she s supposed to have total amnesia when Ireth, a fiery horse numina, possesses her, she has some vague recollections of events and feels a connection with Ireth When Kazen does something particularly horrifying, Sandis finally musters up her courage and runs away Her family is dead, but during her last outing with Kazen she saw the name of a person sharing her unusual last name Sandis pins her hope on finding this Talbur Gwenwig, hoping he s a long lost relative who will protect her.What Sandis finds instead is Rone, a twenty something thief who has an ancient magical artifact, called an amarinth, that he can spin once every 24 hours, giving him protection for sixty seconds against any mortal wounds and, conveniently, healing any that he s already gotten When Sandis swipes the amarinth while Rone is protecting her against Kazen s henchmen who are chasing her down, Rone s and Sandis s fates become tied together Sandis also knows that Kazen is bent on summoning a far dangerous demon, Kolosos, who might destroy their city of Dresberg She s not sure how to prevent him from doing this, but she wants to try, even if it means keeping her connection to Ireth.I thought Smoke Summons was an engaging novel, easy to read and get lost in, and teen readers who like dark magical fantasies with a romance subplot are likely to enjoy it The plot has several weaknesses, though the type that start to bother you once the excitement of reading the novel starts to wear off I frequently wanted to shake Sandis and Rone, who occasionally make blindingly imprudent decisions One that Sandis makes at the very end of the novel was the final straw for me, though Holmberg offers justification for her choice that may satisfy other readers And once you cut through all the chasing mostly by Kazen and his goons and running around which takes up most of the story this novel feels like it s mostly a long set up for the next novels in the NUMINA TRILOGY.Dresberg and the entire country of Kolingrad are a dirty, corrupt place, one that most people except the wealthy and powerful would love to escape from, were it not that the borders are so strictly controlled Sandis and Rone are a fairly typical YA fiction couple, dancing around their attraction and having their relationship nearly torpedoed with misunderstandings and external pressures Kazen and his grafter henchmen are entirely villainous, without nuances to make them sympathetic or at least understandable I m of the opinion that Kazen isn t the only numina summoner in Kolingrad Perhaps that would an interesting way for the plot to develop in next books What I appreciated most in Smoke Summons were some of the secondary characters and subplots, especially those involving Rone s long lost father this was a memorable episode, fraught with emotion, and a hard message about self serving choices and his former mentor Arnae Kurtz Rone s relationship with and devotion to his rather saintly and definitely long suffering mother also ends up playing a key role in the plot Smoke Summons is a darker novel than I would have expected from Holmberg, though not as dark as some YA fantasies I ve run across, and Holmberg does pull her punches with the sexual content, if not with violence and death This novel has a killer cliffhanger at the end the one with the aforementioned hard to swallow choice by Sandis Overall, it s an interesting story and world, and despite some shortcomings in the plot and characterizations, I m interested in seeing what happens in the next book in this series I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher, 47North, and the publicist Thank you I found the idea of summons and vessels very interesting, but that s all I found interesting It very quickly went from Smoke Summons to Worry Running That s about all that happens in this book.The author tells us everything, instead of showing us anything The characters are shallow and bland The plot is almost nonexistent The 300 pages of chase scenes and worried internal monologues should ve served as the first 100 pages or so that would lay the ground work for further development in the same novel But nah Bon app tit A young target audience is no excuse to skimp on content Megan Whalen Turner Garth Nix J K Rowling Ray Bradbury Philip Pullman even Lol girl bye. I received this book well before it s release date in the hopes that I would give it a blurb for the cover It s wonderful it s action packed and the characters are empathetic The unique world of dark wizards and creatures from another astral plane is fascinating Put this book in your TBR pile, you won t be sorry No one s going to read this, why do I write book reviews None of my friends are on this site, and I doubt people who are on the site look for other people s reviews Oh well.I think Charlie builds a decent fantasy world, but this one is a lot weaker than her Paper Magician series I think this is an attempt to make a darker series but keep her super wholesome religious characters It s not that this is a hopepunk or whatever people are calling it, but you can definitely tell that the author is very devout and has particular ideas on how people should be, and that s what she writes about The main character is pure, trusting, and constantly being degraded by the world, literally dropped in the sewers multiple times and enslaved but never violated and yet never loses her faith in a thinly veiled god She is betrayed by the last person she trusts but is obviously going to forgive this person because she just wants to cook for him or something, I don t know Honestly, the budding romance is the worst, I d rather she rescue herself thanks.Reading Charlie s books, you can guess what part of the US she s from, and that s fine She s obviously very devout, and it shows because her characters are a very particular sort of wholesome In the Magicians series it works because it s set in Victorian England anyway, so it fits well for the time, and the heroine was mostly working out her own shit It just felt organic The Numina series feels forced, like she set out to write about her faith and how it interacts with the world through a bunch of metaphors around slavery and demonic possession and endless bouncing between sewers and rooftops get it, highs and lows The girl is possessed of awesome power but never wields it herself, she is only a vessel for some otherworldly force to act through her She literally has no agency of her own, she s called a vessel like 100 times, and most of the book is her being backed into a corner before her fire horse demon or her boyfriend betrayer can save them, probably by descending into a sewer It seems like the only things she does of her own free will, her contribution to trying to get away, is cleaning up and making sure the boyfriend betrayer gets something to eat.This is Twilight level wish fulfillment fantasy Which is fine if that s your thing, but it isn t mine. As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon a raging monster summoned to do his bidding Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal To stay alive, she must run And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis s fight for freedom But Sandis s master knows how powerful she is He s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device For her master has summonedthan mere men to hunt her down Release day and I just received an eARC Fun Really looking forward to this one being a bit odd and very magical. None of the magical features of Charlie N Holmberg s Smoke and Summons overwhelm you, and that s a good thing We become aware of the illegal magic practiced and are also informed that there are rare magical artifacts We are not allowed to see than that, at least not at this time.Which is okay, because it allows the story to revolve around Sandis, who is a vessel capable of becoming a temporary home of a demon Her life is about to abruptly change, which is where the story begins Her attempts to escape from her former captor ensnares Rone, who has enough problems without adding Sandis to the list Both are seeking answers to their troubles while evading the ruthless people looking for them Ms Holmberg slowly builds his world, allowing us only to see whatever Sandis and Rone are experiencing This works well, eliminating the possibility of information dumps and keeping the book action oriented Tension is another underlying aspect of the plot, as the danger of capture lurks around every corner.Though they are scantily fleshed out, there is enough description to cause us to care about Rone and Sandis The villains in the story, both major and minor, are fairly one dimensional We can feel the essence of evil but not much else As the story focus is not on the villains, this tends not to be too much of a factor.Overall, this is a decent enough tale that I am considering taking the plunge and moving on to the second book The author almost lost me as I believed the book would end with a cliffhanger Thankfully, although the end was abrupt, the story did not finish with someone s life on the line Lighthearted at times, a slight breath of potential romance, and pages of action make this a solid four star effort. This book bothered me for many reasons but here are the main ones This book is a classic example of weak plot syndrome Where the plot isn t really good so you fill the pages with chase scene after chase scene And then, in the calmer spots, you get the woes of young love and the weakness of the main characters Sandis is a super weak woman and a horrible role model for women especially young women , IMO She is the classic damsel in distress and never grows out of it The only time she shows backbone is when she insists on running in a certain directionbut she is still runningeven though she has immense power inside her Maybe this is on purpose maybe Charlie is setting it up so she can have a big moment where she finds her power But honestly, this book could have used that scene All the characters felt wooden and very trope y None of them had any depth and I couldn t get into them at all Another thing that bothered me was the clunky writing I mean, it was just clunky Hard to explain, but it just felt odd Meh OoooOOOOOH I got the chance to read this in advance, and wow This is a seriously intense adventure with lots of twists and turns and high energy escapes And creeeeeeepy magic I would not normally pick up a book like this, and I feel like I should warn squeamish readers that there is, at one point, a lot of blood Like, a LOT But I really am gonna need the next one, because that was one heck of a cliffhanger ending 3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum Summons by Charlie N Holmberg first caught my attention with its synopsis, but I became even intrigued once I realized what I was looking at on the cover was the head of a fiery demon like horse The reason for this striking motif was soon revealed, as the story introduces readers to Sandis, who is no ordinary young woman For one, she is a vessel, whose body is trained and primed to hold demon like spirits called forth from the netherworld She is also a slave of sorts, kept under lock and key by a cruel summoner named Kazen, who has captured a number of kids like Sandis for his nefarious purposes And because what Kazen does is highly illegal, he operates underground in a top secret facility where he can hide his activities as well as keep his charges isolated and unaware of what s going on in the outside world This in essence is Sandis life, where all she does each day is keep her head down and obey the rules, as not to anger Kazen After all, it s painful enough what happens to her whenever he calls forth her demon, the fire horse Ireth, into her body.But then one night, Sandis witnesses something at the facility that frightens her to her core, prompting her to leave immediately, escaping into the unfamiliar city Her only hope is a name of an unknown relative she chanced to glimpse in Kazen s records, perhaps a distant uncle who would recognize their kinship and protect her Instead, Sandis finds Rone, a caddish thief who thought the poor lost girl would be easy prey to his charms But to his surprise, it is actually Sandis who catches him off guard and ends up making off with something valuable of his an extremely rare and powerful artifact called amarinth which grants its bearer immortality for one minute every day To get it back, Rone tracks down Sandis, but then winds up getting swept along in her desperate attempt to escape Kazen and his minions Understanding that the two of them need each other to survive, Sandis and Rone strike up a reluctant partnership She needs to lie low until she can find her mysterious relative, and he s hoping that the reward for helping her will earn him the money to free his mother from jail.I ll be honest, I think I would have enjoyed this book had I not disliked the characters right off the bat On the whole, Sandis was all right, even if her meekness sometimes bothered me though at least this was in keeping with her background and history Rone, on the other hand, was infinitely punchable and irritating I despised his smugness and arrogance the moment he showed up on the page He is also impulsive and shows an astounding lack of foresight and awareness of potential consequences He has little consideration for others and barely ever thinks beyond his own self interests It s hard to feel bad for him when you know his own bad decisions are the cause of all his troubles The reason he gets tangled up with Sandis is because he thought he could take advantage of her The reason his mother is arrested is because she wound up being blamed for a crime he himself had committed This guy thinks he has all these problems when, really, he is the problem, but of course, he s too self centered to realize it.And the worst part I don t think Rone changed all that much It would be one thing for an unlikeable character to redeem themselves throughout the course of a story, and though Rone did show some signs of turning around, when the moment of truth arrived in the second half of the novel, he completely blew the chance to prove himself and made me angry at him all over again I m glad I didn t waste my sympathies on him, though I did feel bad for Sandis There were times where I felt the author might have been hinting at an eventual romance for her two characters, but I was never really able to feel much of anything, let alone a spark of chemistry, between them One reason for this is the power and knowledge imbalance where it seemed Rone always held all the cards despite Sandis being the one with the ability to channel a demon horse He went freely about the world while she remained stashed away in some hidey hole as she always was, the na ve and innocent girl The relationship had all the ingredients of one heading straight for trouble, but even when it turned out I was right, the confirmation brought little satisfaction.But now, for the things I did like without a doubt, the whole premise of summoning demons into human vessels was the most intriguing and memorable aspect of the book There is an entire system involved in the process, from the blood sacrifices it requires to the permanent scars carved into a vessel s flesh Each individual vessel also has a power level associated with him or her, determining the strength of the demon that can be summoned And then, there was Rone s amarinth As magical trinkets go, it doesn t get much cooler or imaginative than that, and reading about its effects immediately made me curious to know about the object and others like it Suffice it to say, a lot of hard work was put into developing the magic of this universe, given its layers upon layers of rich detail, and as a fantasy fan, I always delight discovering new and unique world building.Still, at the end of the day, I m a characters first kind of reader, and admittedly, my loathing for one of the key characters most likely impacted my overall enjoyment of this novel Still, I didn t think Smoke Summons was a bad book, despite having to put up with Rone, and I actually find myself curious to see how he and Sandis can move forward in the wake of the choices he made Both are now changed from the experience, which should make the next book interesting.