Smoke by Dan Vyleta
England. A century ago, give or take a few years." 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.
Many people really did not enjoy this novel, due to pacing issues, and character's choices, etc; however, I felt very differently. I loved this book very much, for reasons that some people hated it. I will say, that when I first read the book, I gave it 5/5 stars, but after some honest reviewing, I docked it down a little, because there were some issues that I found in thinking more critically about the writing, plot, and character development (but don't get me wrong, it was still one of my favorite reads of the year).
I would like to say firstly, that this book was beautifully written. The book has a very unique plot-line, and the author, I felt, did a wonderful job in creating this very dark and atmospheric energy, from the very beginning. I have a little bit of a character fettish for dark and twisty male protagonists, and Thomas definitely met this description. I also loved his friendship with Charlie. A lot of people found their relationship upsetting and annoying, but I think that it's rare for there to be friendships in novels that do not turn into something romantic. I appreciated that Charlie and Thomas were so devoted and loyal to one another without there being any sort of romantic interest between the two of them.
There is a love triangle in this book, that I know many found to be very irritating; however, I was not bothered by it whatsoever. I do think that the characters made some questionable choices, and seemed to be a little flighty, but I also think that that's life, and it made the book feel a little more realistic.
In thinking about this book a little more critically than I did when I first read it, I saw that I was bothered by some plot holes. I think that the second half of the novel was a bit rushed, which created some questionable plot turns. There were some things left unexplained that created a lot of unneeded confusion and disappointment. This bothered me enough to dock this book down from 5 stars, to 4.25 stars.
Although the execution of the story fell a little flat towards the end, I think that the characters and the writing, and the initial idea for the story, made this book well worth it for me personally.
I'd like to say thank you to Double Day publishing for sending me this book. 4.25/5 stars.