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Smoke (2016)

by Dan Vyleta

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5213936,005 (3.41)30
An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real. An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they've been taught is a lie-- knowledge that could cost them their lives. A grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories. A love triangle. A desperate chase. Revolutionaries and secret police. Religious fanatics and coldhearted scientists. Murder. A London filled with danger and wonder. A tortured relationship between a mother and a daughter, and a mother and a son. Unexpected villains and unexpected heroes. Cool reason versus passion. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn't clear.… (more)
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» See also 30 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Tentative 4 stars.. might change in retrospect.
Content note for scenes of graphic violence.

The point of this book are the moral questions. Not only what if sin was visible? but what if the visible mark of sin could be hidden.. for a price? not to mention The poor working folk are clearly sinful and so deserve their place in life... and a good thing too because what would the gentry do without them?

I liked the setup and social/structural elements better than the interpersonal elements, for the most part, although I can see that literarily, one needed both. The scenes of graphic violence were not gratuitous but used to depict the depths of evil, but I would be unable to read this in an audio format where I couldn't skim over them.

The most disappointing piece is that although one of the major plot drivers in the early part of the book is uncovering evidence that the Smoke did not in fact always exist, and that books including the Bible have been edited to make it seem otherwise... this point is basically abandoned. We never find out where it came from, and the conflict in the book is between people who want to preserve the hypocritical status quo, and the people who want to embrace the Smoke as intrinsic to living a rich human life. ( )
  VictoriaGaile | Oct 16, 2021 |
I'm gonna cut to the chase: Smoke was a good book but was plagued with an unfortunate love triangle throughout. This should’ve ruined the book (which was otherwise filled with action and angst and betrayal and mystery, but SPOILER ALERT the love triangle ended in a polyamorous relationship, completely unexpected and completely refreshing. Midway through, the book slowed to a crawl as the three participants angsted over their love and their rivals and etc, but by the conclusion it had been put on the back burner and I had almost forgotten its existence. Moreover, the polyamorous ending wasn’t completely out of left field, the romantic rivals had a connection and a tension throughout the novel that was frankly rather gay. (The only thing better than a polyamorous ending is a gay one as the female protagonist's chemistry with both her suitors was somewhat lackluster, but beggars can’t be choosers)
(Read if you liked A Darker Shade of Magic – the tone and premise were quite similar.)
( )
  astronomist | Oct 3, 2021 |
Decently written, mildly interesting premise, cardboard characters, and so crawlingly slow I started skipping from very early-on. ( )
  SChant | Jan 28, 2021 |
Smoke takes place in early 1900s England and starts with two boys at boarding school (Do non-boarding schools exist in England? Has the Queen forbidden them? Or is it cheaper then buying a house big enough to actually fit your family?) where we learn that in this alternate (hopefully) past, people emit black smoke when they commit any minor transgression. That’s right, you can tell you are being lied to from a wisp of black smoke that the person emits. A large part of school, as a result, is trying to teach children to control their smoke, which coagulates to form soot on their white clothing and linens, or else they will be forced into life on the streets or working in a factory, followed by an eternity in hell.

My full review ( )
  gwilcox | Oct 1, 2020 |
I read an advance reader's copy from Netgalley.

Ohhhh my gosh I'm finally done this book. This book was long, and the closer I got to the end, the more I thought I'd never be able to finish it. The writing style was fine, the premise was really intriguing, and the characters were interesting, mostly, but it just dragged, and I never actually learned anything about Smoke. Which was the reason I picked this up in the first place. I was hoping there would be some explanation of Smoke, and while we did learn a bit more about how it works throughout the book, I was mostly disappointed in what we didn't learn. I also wasn't a huge fan of the love triangle between our main characters. So while the atmosphere of the book was really great, dark and gritty, and the world seems like it's probably quite fascinating, it was a slog for me to get through and I was pleased to finish it and move on to something else. ( )
1 vote katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I read the first half with a frenetic intensity, though as the book went on, with a mild annoyance, too. Mr. Vyleta, known in Canada and Britain for his atmospheric, well-made thrillers (including “The Quiet Twin” and “The Crooked Maid”), writes with intricacy and imagination and skillful pacing; never once would I have considered putting his book down. But when he wants to make a point, he plays with a heavy hand — fortissimo, when piano would have done....It’s the subject of class, unfortunately, that also brings out the preacher in Mr. Vyleta. He is especially highhanded and literal when writing about the use and abuse of smoke as a tool of social control....Yet his ending, which I wouldn’t dare reveal here, is a real firecracker, and the lessons Mr. Vyleta wishes to impart are largehearted, even if they detonate with a loud boom. To smoke is human, is his real point
 
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An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real. An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they've been taught is a lie-- knowledge that could cost them their lives. A grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories. A love triangle. A desperate chase. Revolutionaries and secret police. Religious fanatics and coldhearted scientists. Murder. A London filled with danger and wonder. A tortured relationship between a mother and a daughter, and a mother and a son. Unexpected villains and unexpected heroes. Cool reason versus passion. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn't clear.

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