Smoke in the Glass – Chris Humphreys
Smoke in the Glass is a fantasy tale full of adventure, conflict and deceit. A novel where legends inspire people and gifts are not always distributed fairly or received by the most virtuous. The Immortal’s Blood Series is based in a world split into four lands: Corinthium, Ometepe, Midgarth and Land of Joy, each separated by unclimbable mountains and unsailable seas. From the beginning of time, the people of each land knew nothing of the others and believed themselves to be alone.
Each land has formed a similar myth – a visitor fell from the skies and bestowed gifts on some of the people. The first gift given to all the lands, except the Land of Joy, was immortality to a chosen few. This gift was given indiscriminately and only made aware of in a person when they first died. In the 3 lands of immortals rather than use it for good to rule wisely, they have squandered it. The second gift was one of possession – possession of mortals and beasts for short periods – a gift that was wasted, and in Ometepe, lost.
The fourth land, a land of four tribes, the visitor gave the people a different gift. Hope. Hope in the form of a prophecy. Of someone who would come to unite the whole world. The One being born in another land. They have managed to scale the unclimbable mountains and sail the unsailable seas and have gradually entered the other lands and started killing the immortals. Only by beheading or burning can an immortal be killed.
“Now is the age of prophecy fulfilled. Now is the age of the darkness that gives way to the light. The end of the dominion of the Immortal. The beginning of the dominion of Man. The age of azana. The age of the One.”
During an assassination attempt on an immortal in Midgarth, the assassin is captured and the device he uses to communicate is retrieved and it provides an opportunity to realise what’s been happening over many years. The device is a glass globe filled with smoke. When the user drinks from a hallucinogenic addictive liquid in a vial, he becomes transfixed and can see others and images of things through the smoke. Luck is an immortal in Midgarth and realises after experiencing the Smoke in the Glass that he has a mission to discover the extent of their plans and the other lands. He is a wonderful character, crippled, physically challenged but clever and strategic – not too unlike Tyrion Lannister.
There is a central character in each land that the story follows. Luck from Midgarth, on his mission. Atisha from Ometepe who has just given birth to a no-sex child, Poum, who is The One, and she must protect the child from those determined to see it dead. Ferros is a soldier, a new immortal, from Corinthium and his story is unfolding as he comes to terms with personal issues and an invading force from the fourth land.
The story and plot are meticulously developed and delivered at a solid pace that maintains a great entertainment level. It did take a bit of time getting into the flow of the story with the many characters, places and legends – most with strange names, although there is a welcoming list of characters at the beginning of the book. I must have read the first chapter 5 times but it gives so much information it’s important to understand. The story left me with a strange impression, because it reads quite unique but feels very familiar. Chris Humphreys is a superb storyteller and is upfront indicating this is a trilogy which reaches no conclusions in this book but will flow seamlessly into the next – I hope.
The story is compelling and fascinating with a wonderful array of characters and a core lesson that we should use our gifts wisely. The constant warring and death in Midgarth and Corinthium are games the immortals play as they can be reborn, however, the mortals will die forever in these games. A time of reckoning is coming!
I would recommend this book and I’d like to thank Orion Publishing Group, Gollancz and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.