Author Dan Vyleta
Genre: YA Dystopian Fiction
Part of a series? No
Hi guys! I am going to begin this review with several confessions. I read about Smoke first from The New York Times Book Review and while very intrigued, was unsure if it was worth my book money. I waited for a library copy, which wasn’t hard, as I was second in line. This surprised me, usually hot new releases have lines that go on forever; but I marked it down to not being very well known. As I waited, I looked at all the reviews which range from two stars, to “I am buying one for all my friends because I love it so much”. When reviews vary so wildly about a book, it just makes me desperate to throw in my two cents.
I ended up blowing through the book, loving the play between characters and the premise of the book. When I read, I will usually highlight my eBook with passages that are either important to character, story, or passages I just love. I have sticky tabs for paper books. Well, this one got a ridiculous amount of tabs and thus, eight pages of notes. This is why, even though I finished the book on Monday, I am just now entering a review. And… Here we go!
Smoke is a Ya dystopian historical fantasy (try saying that three times fast!). It takes place in England about a Century ago- except that the author took some creative license. Ask yourself: What would it be like if your every sin showed itself? Every naughty or evil thought or action manifested itself in Smoke coming from your body? What if you had always been told that the pure, the aristocrats that rule the country, weren’t supposed to smoke- that this proved their superiority and right to rule? What is you found out it was all a lie? How far would you go just to know the truth?
Thomas is already damaged at sixteen. His father murdered a man, and he fears that that Smoke-that taint – is genetic. He knows there is evil growing inside him, and he loathes himself for it. Charlie is Thomas’ only friend at the boy’s school they go to. He is perhaps the kindest character there. He is more pragmatic about the smoke, wanting to help those that do and not judging Thomas for his. Then there is Julius that rules over the boys with an iron fist. He almost never smokes, though there is a bit of evil in him that Thomas and Charlie can see. He holds court in the dead of night and passes judgement on his peers, attempting to make them smoke. If they do, it shows on their clothes and bedding the next morning and they get in trouble with the Master of Smoke, Renfrew.
Around Christmas break, Thomas and Charlie go to Thomas’ uncle’s house. There, they meet Livia and Baroness Naylor. There is much hidden about the place, and the baron himself. Throughout the visit, they learn a terrible truth. The Smoke did not always exist, and history has been covered up to hide the fact. Books have been changed, paintings destroyed. They learn of drugs and sweets created to either help one sin, or hide ones sin respectively. Everything they were ever taught seems a lie. The boys decide to leave, figure things out. Livia, against her mother’s wishes, gets into the coach to see them off at the train station.
On the road they are set upon, the horses and coachman shot. Thomas gets shot too, when he opens the door to see what is going on. Thus begins their true adventure. Searching the countryside for help, not knowing who to trust save for one another; our trio become close and love grows. Between Charlie and Livia, and later Livia and Thomas. With the help of unlikely allies they make their way to London, shadowed by an evil threat. There, they meet a miracle- and unearth a plot. The lines between good and evil as they know it are constantly blurring and in the end, they have to decide where they stand. How do you start a revolution?
Personally, I loved this book. I loved the flow of the story, the bits of mystery, and most of all the characters. I have a soft spot for Thomas especially. What I didn’t like was that only two characters showed growth in the book, and only one was a healthy growth. Charlie and Thomas never really seem to change. I believe I would have like to see that. Still, all in all I give the book five stars.
As far as the Adult Content scale, there is violence and some drug use. Maybe a five, though I would still hand it to a preteen without qualm.
Oh, and this is why my review took so long:
The book is out now- go get it!
Link to book: