It’s been awhile since the Smoke Eaters were given their walking papers and the New United States Army has taken control of policing the country- or what’s left of it. North America has become a dystopian society with great cities, such as Chicago, in complete ruin due to the dragon activity.
Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the New United States Army (NUSA), and as the low man in the company he is assigned to some community relations and doing some show-and-tell with the local children. What Contreras only comes to learn is that NUSA is more of a mercenary organization, intimidating the local communities into supporting them and providing them with resources. NUSA is also looking for Smoke Eaters (those who are able to breathe while in a room full of smoke and tend to be dragon fighters). This has caused the Smoke Eaters to go into hiding.
When the NUSA division that Contreras is with makes an attempt to harm a local child because they suspect the youth of having Smoke Eater abilities, Contreras, who has a hero-worship passion for Smoke Eaters and has studied all he can on them, steps in to protect the child and winds up stealing a NUSA tank and accidentally killing members of his unit. His desire now is to get away, get back to his home town, and try to forget all about the NUSA. But it doesn’t quite work out that way and instead, Contreras meets, works with, and becomes one of the historical figures he has studied since childhood. Which is good, because the Smoke Eaters are going to need him since a band of NUSA supporters have learned to control and fly dragons, making them much more dangerous than they already were.
Just as with the first two books in the series, this is a heck of a lot of fun.
Author Sean Grigsby has done a wonderful job of taking this series and growing the characters and the story with each book while retaining what has made it fun – the action and the concept . The first book had some ‘issues’ with a sense of being a “Marty Stu” book – male fantasy toward women, sex, and heroism. That is gone, so it is quite easy to sit back and enjoy the ride here.
One of the reasons I can’t give this a full five stars is because while I like that Grigsby keeps it new, with fresh ideas and characters, this also means we have to spend a fair amount of time re-learning this world and how it has changed since we last visited, and we have to get to learn the new character who is the primary focus throughout the book. I really wanted to dive right in and go, go, go, but I had to wait while I learned who Contreras was and how he would be impactful with dragons (I wasn’t sure there were going to be dragons for the longest time, and I was going to be really angry if there weren’t).
The Goodreads page for the book notes that this is the third and final installment in the series. I sincerely hope that is not true. There is a lot of new potential here as we end this book and this world is just too darn fun to abandon now. If someone were to make a summer film of these books I suspect there would be more books for years to come.
Looking for a good book? Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby continues the high-octane action of the Smoke Eaters series. If you are looking for an exciting beach read, pick this up.
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author: Sean Grigsby
series: Smoke Eaters #3
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 320 pages