Review – Iron and Smoke by Brandon Nolta

After reading Trial of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse I started searching from more Native American Fantasy. I found a few things but not many. One of my finds was Iron and Smoke by Brandon Nolta.

So here we are.

Iron and Smoke

by Brandon Nolta

Synopsis by GoodReads

Welcome to the United States of America in the 1880s: Settlers are moving west, as do the iron horses that bring them by rail … and somewhere in those vast regions of deserts and native tribes, a darkness is gathering. Calls Thunder Song, a powerful Shoshone shaman, senses it first, and reaches out to the Western Council, an association of magi and other magical folk, for possible insight and assistance. In response, the Council sends a single magus, Aquinas Moore, as a token gesture, but what starts as a simple diplomatic mission for Aquinas turns into a struggle for existence against a foe more terrible than any of them has ever encountered, which has already infiltrated the halls of power. Now, these unlikely allies must band together with a pair of Native American deities and a dead man to fight off a threat from outside the universe, a threat that intends to not only conquer, but change the very nature of existence. 

My Opinion


  • the magic! how cool!
  • in interwoven fabric of railroad building


This is an innovating Native American fantasy!

The world is magical and villains a fascinating and the gods make an appearance too!

However, the writing wasn’t the best, it felt a big heavy and somewhat clunky.

The Story

The story follows the main characters, Aquinas, as he journeys on behalf of the Eastern Council to the Western Council to aid in threat facing the West side.

Upon arrival, it becomes obvious that the threat is more several than previously thought and that Aquinas is closer to the god than he himself realised.

I like how the story progressed throughout the book. It was well planned out and logical. Sometimes the story was a bit predictable but overall a fun read.

World Building

The world is great. It’s a historical setting of our own somewhere around the 1800s. Railroads are just being build across the land and the author has weaved this historical element into his magical world. The railroads makes a big appearance and I loved that.

It’s not too heavy nor too steep. It’s the right amount of everything.

Magic/Science System

The magic and science are separated. Science is related to technology as it is with us today. But magic is its own thing. In this world, magic is worldwide and has existed in the background for centuries. The council stretched across the world joining the magus on all continents.

I loved the magic. It’s rooted in Native American lore and includes classics like Dream walking and gods like Coyote and Trickster. It’s also rune magic and aura magic which is super cool and I loved every bit of it!


Aquinas is the main character and the hero of the book. We meet him in the prologue and follow his journey all the way through. Aquinas is a mage and knows a lot about magic but he still wants to learn. I don’t know much about him even though I’ve read a whole book about him.






The author is a writer and editor according to his GoodReads page so I don’t want to be too harsh as I am not either of those things, but the writing felt heavy. I found it difficult to enjoy as a reader.


Loved the magic. Enjoyed the story. Not the biggest fan of the writing.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys Native American fantasy.

Have you read this? What did you think?

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