Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine! You are not going to want to skip this fourth book in the amazing Great Library series. Today I've got a really fun post for you, including a Khalila feature, excerpt, and giveaway!
I'm going to stay with Khalila! She is a clever Scholar who is tough as nails and easily one of my favorite characters in the book. She takes on a bigger role in this book (though she already had a big role in the series). She would be a Ravenclaw to me - but I'll let the author make that call!
Here is Khalila's character card!
About the Book:
Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine
Book Four of the Great Library series
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.
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.
Check out the series:
(Click on the covers to go to my reviews!)
My Thoughts on Smoke and Iron:
I'm going to keep this brief mostly because I just finished the book and I'm still trying to process it! The ending was very intense and a tiny bit ambiguous. But I'll get to that. No Smoke and Iron spoilers, I promise!
This book picks up some time after the ending of Ash and Quill. Don't worry, I won't spoil the previous books for you either. One thing that I've noticed the author does well is bring a reader back into the story. I honestly couldn't remember a single thing from Ash and Quill, but within about five pages of reading Smoke and Iron, I'd remembered the major events. Things started coming back to me quickly. This is a talent of the author's - it's not an easy feat to accomplish. But when you're writing a five-book series, it's so important to remind readers of previous events, and the author does that so well.
Let's just say the gang is in a bad spot in the beginning of the book. A lot of them are imprisoned. Jess is pretending to be his twin brother Brendan, which was amusing. Jess has this ridiculous plan that will probably get everyone killed... but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. Allies are few and far between, and the Archivist is growing more powerful and menacing by the day.
We got to read from third-person POVs other than Jess's, like Morgan's. This was great because, without spoiling too much, let's just say that Morgan and Jess aren't always occupying the same space. Which is sad for the barely-there romance, but it's okay because this isn't a permanent thing, if you catch my drift. There is romance on several fronts, and no love triangle!
The ending isn't quite as brutal of a cliffhanger ending as that of Ash and Quill, but it's still somewhat cliffhanger-y and it's an explosive ending nonetheless. There's some death, and some ascension, and there's clearly more to come. I can't wait!
I'll post a review with my usual formatting after the book has been published, maybe a week or two after the date, complete with possible spoilers from books one, two, and three. But for now, these are me thoughts immediately upon finishing the book - basically you don't want to miss this sequel!
Follow the Author:
The clouds were the color of lead and pressed flat on the horizon, erasing the line between heaving sea and sky. Khalila stood at the railing and watched the oncoming storm. She was aware of the wind whipping wildly at the long lilac dress she wore and was espe¬cially glad of the extra hairpins she’d put in on her headscarf, which she’d wrapped carefully and tucked beneath the neck of her dress. It held in warmth, which was a blessing from Allah, because the gusts had an edge of pure ice to them that worked its way through any small opening to bite at her skin. Far too cold out, so far from the safety of land.
A weight settled around her shoulders, and she shot a grateful smie toward the young man who’d brought her a heavy coat. It smelled of thick sweat and wet sheep, but there was no denying its insulating power. “Thank you, Thomas,” she said, and the German nodded and leaned on the railing. That almost made them of a height. He seemed calm, but she didn’t trust it. Thomas, of all of them, had been the most devastated by the betrayal of the Brightwell family that had landed them aboard this ship; he couldn’t reconcile it. In Thomas’s rather innocent world, family was always to be trusted, and he counted Jess—and by extension Jess’s twin, Brendan—as a true brother.
“You’re thinking about him,” she said.
“How can you tell?” Thomas managed a thread of a smile.
“Your face,” she said. “I know how you feel. When I see Brendan Brightwell again, I’ll kill him. Betrayal is a serious thing, in my part of the world.”
She watched Thomas’s hands flex on the iron railing. His deep-seated innocence had been battered, if not broken. “Mine, too,” he said. “God help them if we come face-to-face with any of the Brightwells again, then.”
“Yes,” she said. “Even Jess, if he had some part in it.” She had a strong suspicion that Jess had everything to do with this, and for that, she wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive him. If Jess had arranged all this, he’d hurt Thomas, of all people, and she felt a great, banked fury for that. Thomas met her gaze for a second, then gave her a quirk of a smile, very different from the usual full-souled one she loved. “The storm looks bad,” he said. “She’d be a fool to sail into it.”
“Anit is not a fool,” Khalila said. “But she will want to deliver us quickly to Alexandria. We are not an easy cargo, and we’ve already been delayed. We’re lucky to have this much freedom, to breathe the air and walk the decks.”
Thomas shrugged and gestured and the heavy, heaving sea. “Where else could we go?”
She didn’t miss the dark look in his eyes or the way he lingered on those waves, as if he was thinking about the peace that might be had under them. Khalila silently slipped her hand into his and held it. She knew her fingers were freezing, but Thomas’s were warm, and he didn’t seem to mind. Together they watched the lightning stitch through the clouds ahead. The thunder was inaudible over the boom of the sea against the metal hull of the ship. Even in these conditions, the huge cargo ship sailed smoothly, though Khalila kept her other hand on the railing; that might change soon, if that storm came at them. She supposed she ought to have been properly frightened of the weather, but there was a wild beauty in it as well. A power that showed, clearer than anything else, the magnificence of Allah’s cre¬ations.
But the wind was still cold enough to steal her breath away.
“Do you think they’re all right?” Thomas asked her then. Like her, he was watching the lightning. She saw it dance in his pale eyes. “Wolfe and Morgan?”
“Yes,” she said. “I believe they will be.”
“I wish I could be sure. All I can think about …” He didn’t finish, but she knew what he would have said; he would have been thinking of his time trapped in the dungeons of Rome, at the mercy of the Great Library. They’d nearly broken him there. Nearly.
Thomas shook his head violently, as if trying to throw something out of it. Bits of sea spray glittered in his stiff, close-cropped blond hair like a cap of jewels. He was growing in a thick, short beard, too. “Why did Jess let this happen?”
Khalila had her own suspicions, strong ones, but she kept them to herself. Worse to guess and be wrong. “I doubt it was at all his choice,” she said. “I think he’d have moved heaven and earth to be with us, fight with us. Don’t you?”
She saw something else flicker in his eyes then, but it was too brief for her to recognize it clearly. “The Jess I knew would that.”
“Then believe that he’ll find us now.”
Thomas said nothing else, and she let the silence stretch warm between them. Before she’d met Thomas and her other year-mates in training at the Great Library, she’d never have believed she could befriend someone so unlike herself; he was so huge and strong and . . . well, solidly and mysteriously German. But he was brilliant and sweet and funny; of all of them, his loyalty was as unbreakable as she imagined that thick skull to be. She cherished him. She cherished all of them, in ways that continued to unfold in new and surprising di¬rections.
“Isn’t this adorable?” a new voice said from behind them, and Khalila glanced back to see that Glain Wathen had joined them. Another tall person, but Glain had a narrow Welsh cast to her features that gave her the beauty of a precisely honed knife. “Is it a private love affair, or can anyone join?”
For answer, Khalila held out her other hand. Glain snorted and linked arms with her instead. She rocked and balanced easily on the deck and stared into the storm without a trace of fear. A great deal of appreciation, though.
“Dario’s down below puking his guts out,” Glain said. She sounded uncommonly cheerful about it. “Santi’s sleeping. He said to wake him if we sink, and not before.”
That sounded like the very practical High Garda captain. Rarely disturbed by any impending doom. If there was something to do, he’d do it, but otherwise, he saved his strength . . . though, Khalila thought, he’d been darkly quiet since they’d been taken aboard this ship. He wasn’t speaking about his feelings or about the loss of Scholar Wolfe. She understood, in part; she loved Scholar Wolfe like a dour brother or a quarrelsome uncle: not quite a father, but most definitely family.
They were all family now. And she was proud of that.
“Dario said that he needed to talk to you,” Glain said. “Go on. I’ll keep the great lump here from falling overboard.”
“I won’t fall,” Thomas said. Glain glanced at Khalila, quick as the lightning flickering on the horizon, and Khalila knew they’d both caught the inference.
He wouldn’t fall, but he’d definitely thought of jumping. It was part of the reason Khalila had spent so much time up here on the freezing decks; she wanted to keep an eye on him and make sure his anger and despair didn’t turn even darker. She didn’t think he’d do something so unforgivable, but she could understand the wild im¬pulse. He felt betrayed, alone, lost. Hopeless.
She fought that herself. But she had faith—faith in her friends—to sustain her, as well as her unshakeable faith in the plans of Allah. They had all survived this far. All was not lost.
She had to believe it and make them believe it, too. At least Glain seemed completely unbothered by their current circumstances as un¬armed prisoners, surrounded by enemies and ocean water.
“Try not to pick any fights,” she told Glain. “Here.” She stripped off the warm, stinking coat and draped it over Glain’s shoulders; she instantly regretted it when the wind sliced through the fabric of her dress and began to claw at her skin. Still, she paused long enough to plant a gentle kiss on Thomas’s cheek—one he kindly bent down to allow. “Watch Glain’s back for me,” she whispered. It would keep him solid.
“I know what you’re doing,” he whispered back. “But I will.”
“And shave your beard,” she said, in a louder tone. “It’s like try¬ing to kiss a bear.”
He laughed, and she was glad to hear it; it wasn’t quite the old, happy laugh she remembered, but it was a start.
She fought her way across the decks, past surefooted sailors mov¬ing about unknowable tasks, and when she arrived at the door that led below, she glanced up and at the lighted bridge. The brawny, scarred captain stood there, and several of his officers, and with them the slender form of a very young woman. Anit, daughter of Red Ibrahim, and at least for now, their captor.
Anit did not spare her a glance. She was intent on charts and the words of her captain. Khalila stood for a few seconds watching them, trying to memorize the faces of those framed in that light.
The girl finally looked up, as if she felt Khalila’s regard. Anit looked away first.
Interesting. Some guilt? Or just disinterest?
Belowdecks, the tossing felt worse, and the air was thick with the smells of rust, mold, and—as she approached the tiny cabin that Dario shared with Thomas—vomit. Khalila eased it open. “Dario?”
She winced at the sound of him spewing into a bucket. From the sound of it, the bucket badly needed emptying. She looked in to find him collapsing back on his bunk. Dario, even in the worst of times, always prided himself on his neat appearance, but just now he was pallid, with messy hair and a stained shirt that clung as if he’d gone swimming in it. She could smell the rank sweat even over the sick.
“Cristo,” he groaned, and she didn’t know if it was meant for a prayer or a curse. “This is no place for you, flower, but since you’re here, pray God bring me a dagger and let me get it over with.”
“Hush,” she said, and draped a towel over the slop bucket. She carried it to the small toilet in the corner and emptied it, and rinsed it in the basin before setting it back near his bunk.
“You may look like a delicate thing, but you have the cast-iron stomach of a born sailor,” Dario said. He looked feverish, eyes reddened and cheeks flushed, but his skin had a translucent pallor she didn’t like. “Stay a moment. I need to talk to you. And I wouldn’t have called for you to act as my nursemaid, you know that.”
“Well, I can’t imagine Glain emptying your slop bucket,” she said, and settled next to him on the bunk. She took his hand and felt the tremor in it. “You’re dehydrated. You need water. I’ll fetch some.”
“Not now.” He studied her for a few seconds. “You know, don’t you?”
She smiled a little. “Know what?”
“I have a guess,” she said, and the smile went away. She felt cold inside now. Hard as ice. “Why didn’t you tell me, Dario? Why did you—"
“I couldn’t. We told Morgan, of necessity; we needed her help for him to carry this off at all. But you’ve too honest a face, Madonna; if he’d told you that he planned to impersonate his brother and go to Alexandria in Brendan’s place, you’d have given the game away when they came to take us. We needed you to fight like your life depended on it.”
She’d come dangerously close to killing Brendan—she remembered that. She’d been intent on cutting down as many of the Brightwell soldiers as she could, trying to keep from being taken prisoner. And Brendan—that had been Jess—had been one of those she’d have been happy to run a sword through. “You still should have told me.”
Dario shook his head. “We’re far down that river now. Jess is in Alexandria, and his credentials assure him access to the Archivist. He’ll have delivered Morgan to the Iron Tower, where she has her own plans.”
“And Scholar Wolfe?” She was hoping to hear that Wolfe, too, had been privy to this, that he had some brilliant scheme to make this gamble worthwhile.
“Wolfe didn’t know,” Dario admitted. “If he had, Santi would have sensed something was off. And we couldn’t risk Santi refusing to cooperate. Wolfe would have approved of this. We were certain of that.
Whatever doubts she had about it, they were not useful now. “And Thomas?”
“Are you serious? The worst liar in the world? Tough I admit, I thought he was going to tear Jess in half before the fool escaped.”
The Translation tag Jess had used would have deposited Jess—and Wolfe and Morgan—into the center of the Great Archives, inside the stronghold. It was, she had to admit, an audacious plan. It might even be a good one. But the risk was fearfully high—not just for Jess, but for all of them. “Is Jess’s plan to kill the Archivist?” If he did, Jess couldn’t survive it, but it would undoubtedly be a victory of some kind. But someone near the throne would rise to fill the office, and likely it would be someone just as bad; she shuddered to think of that rat- faced Gregory, now Obscurist, assuming the job.
No, until the Library saw the error of its ways and chose a new course of its own will, until the Curia and the Archivist were re¬placed with leaders who understood the damage their repression had done . . . until then, assassination accomplished nothing, except to force the Library to crush down with more force.
She hoped Jess knew that.
Dario shrugged a little. “He’ll do whatever he thinks best, as he usually does. It’s aggravating, especially since the little scrubber usually turns out to be right.”
“Stop calling him that. You love him, too.”
Dario sighed and closed his eyes. “You mentioned water, didn’t you? I could do with that, my love. I don’t want you to see me in this state.”
“Nonsense,” she said, and smiled. “I love seeing you in this state. It means that for once, you’re human and have given up your delusions of grandeur.”
“I do not have delusions of grandeur. I am, in fact, grand.”
She laughed, but once that bright moment faded—and she let it fade—she said, “Once you’re better, we will have a talk about how much I despise dishonesty. You may consider that a warning. I will not be lied to, Dario. Not even for what you believe is my own good.”
“If I survive the night, I will ook forward to your lecture,” he said. “And I know. If the stakes of this hadn’t been so high, the choices so few … but I should have known you would figure out our plan eventually. There is no one like you, Khalila. No one on God’s earth.”
She wanted to kiss him in that moment, but settled for a quick, gentle stroke of fingers across his forehead. “And no one quite like you,” she said. “Allah be praised for that.”
I have two giveaways! The first is specifically for my blog, and it is for a signed copy of Smoke and Iron.
The second is the tour-wide giveaway, for the entire Great Library series!
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