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Smoke: A Novel Hardcover – May 24, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Set in an alternate Victorian England, this novel opens with a late-night bullying scene in a boys' boarding school à la Robert Cormier or Charles Dickens. But over several hundred pages, the narrative develops into a story of three teenage friends on a mission to save the world from destruction by deranged adults, all while negotiating their own love triangle and questioning everything they've ever been told about the Smoke that streaks or puffs or billows out of people who lose self-control in their world. The religious and philosophical beliefs surrounding Smoke, the physical phenomenon of it, and its relatively short history in this England don't all quite hang together in terms of world-building, but most readers won't care, because the grubby mystery of Smoke is intriguing. Teens will find themselves wondering what makes humans human. The lush yet accessible writing style is irresistibly engaging. Most important, the three friends—a cheerfully privileged yet compassionate earl's heir, a mad scientist's haughty daughter, and a possibly cursed, ruthlessly honest orphan boy—are a heartbreaking, heartwarming pleasure to root for. This thick volume satisfies on its own, but a sequel would be welcome, too. VERDICT Give this to fans of either historical fiction or dystopian fiction who want to read a bit outside their comfort zone.—Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN
“Dan Vyleta writes with intricacy and imagination and skillful pacing; never once would I have considered putting his book down. In the manner of both a Dickens novel and the best young adult adventure stories (the Harry Potter series among them), the children run away together to uncover the dark secrets of the grown-up world . . .his ending, which I wouldn’t dare reveal here, is a real firecracker, and the lessons Mr. Vyleta wishes to impart are largehearted”
—Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
"Vyleta's Gothic YA fantasy is part Dickens, part dystopia and totally immersive; a book as eerie and atmospheric as its sooty muse."
—Entertainment Weekly's "Best Books of 2016 so far..."
—O Magazine's Summer Reading Guide
“Compelling…a gloriously murky vision of the past. . . .[D]eliriously imagined. . . . Elusive and nebulous, this gas-lamp fantasy at time borders on steampunk through the grimy lens of a dystopian past.”
“Vyleta has woven a powerful fictional spell, creating both an entire world (as believable as it is incredible) and a richly crafted cast of characters. It’s a unique and unforgettable reading experience.”
—National Post (Canada)
“A fiercely inventive novel . . . Vyleta’s bold concept and compelling blend of history and fantasy offer a provocative reflection on the nature of evil, power, believe, and love. Dickensian in its imaginative scope and atmosphere.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“[T]he novel's sumptuous, irresistible narrative—filled with plenty of twists and turns and imagination—will satisfy any reader. A terrific, suspenseful tale.”
“Is it natural to think ‘bad’ thoughts, and if so, does that make it OK? Do people behave morally out of true goodness? Full of otherworldly adventure yet chilling in its realism, Smoke lures readers into considering these questions about society and ourselves.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Dan Vyleta has conjured a rich and surprising counter-history, an England saturated with a substance so potent and evocative it vaults instantly into the pantheon that includes the Dust of Philip Pullman, the soma of George Orwell, and the opium of Amitavh Ghosh. Smoke is enthralling.”
—Robin Sloan, bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
“Smoke is one of the most original and enthralling books I have read in a long time. I was immediately sucked in and then mesmerized enough that I read it in a rush. I think the book is absolutely stunning. I’ve told so many people about it, I feel like I should carry a bag of galleys around with me to hand out. I’ve refined my elevator pitch to: ‘Smoke is an addictive combination of thriller, fantasy, and historical novel, with a dash of horror. It’s chilling and complex and amazingly imaginative.’”
—Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness
"Astonishing . . . It's filling in that gaping hole left by both Harry Potter and Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. Yes, really."
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The point of view changes every chapter, as different characters describe their own lives, their own struggle to avoid generating Smoke. The story begins in a boy's school where the slightest hint of Smoke is punished severely. The main characters from this school go for Christmas Holiday to an estate owned by the relatives of one of them. And there they find that there are many secrets associated with the origin and nature of Smoke.
This is a pretty chunky book but it was a fast read regardless, because I literally could not put it down. I needed to see how these characters found a way to live in their world. And possibly, how to change it. Don't start this story unless you have a good block of time set aside, because you're not going to want to stop reading.