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Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby. Book review

March 6, 2018

Smoke Eaters

Firefighter Cole Brannigan is looking forward to retiring. With over 30 years of dedicated service, Brannigan and his long-suffering wife deserve it. But after he discovers, on his very last call, that he doesn’t succumb to lethal dragon smoke, an elite dragon-fighting force known as the Smoke Eaters want to recruit him. Given little choice in the matter when his hand is forced, Brannigan has to take up the offer to begin another career, starting all over again as a rookie. Something that grates both on Brannigan and his new superiors. In his new role it doesn’t take Brannigan long to discover that his beloved city and its innocent civilians are at the centre of a plot involving dragons and the decimation of society as they know it.

These fire-breathing reptiles seem to be everywhere in fantasy literature, to the point where I can feel myself drawing my sword and shouldering my shield to fend off yet another dragon fest onslaught.

But wait, what’s this? Dragons versus firemen, and what’s more firemen who seem to be conducting themselves in a way which rings true on every level, in terms of professionalism and the psychological toll such an intense vocation can take on exhausted human beings. Now that’s something new and rather interesting.

As someone with first-hand experience of firefighting, Sean Grigsby brings the reader close up and personal with the world of wrestling fire under control and combining it seamlessly with the type of arsonist no firefighter would ever wish to come up against.

Not content to leave it there, Grigsby layers in devious political intrigue. This becomes particularly interesting in the world of the Smoke Eaters, which includes a political severance between America and Canada, with respect to their different positions on how dragons should be perceived and how the population should behave towards them. There is also a great deal of political wrangling within this book which feels unnervingly prescient.

Although Brannigan’s tough rebel with a soft heart character might appear clichéd, he is too likeable for this to grate. In fact, Brannigan is the type of protagonist you need at the core of this style of story to pull all the threads of the plot together and blend them together into a successful action thriller.

By the time you’ve finished Smoke Eaters you’ll be searching the ground and skies for potential hazards, and seeing political conspiracies around every corner.

Smoke Eaters was courtesy of Angry Robot via NetGalley.


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