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Smoke: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

In an imagined historical England where evil in one’s soul becomes visible—as dark Smoke or Soot creeping from their skin, ears, nostrils—two friends uncover some disturbing secrets on holiday from their very creepy boarding school. Thomas, whose family history of violence marks him as a doomed for Smoke-producing wickedness, and Charlie, noble and golden-hearted, join forces with aristocratic Livia in search for the truth about the Smoke. Edging on fantasy and overlapping with dark mystery, Smoke intriguingly digs into philosophical and moral questions about class, politics, and religion: elite clerics and noblemen can pay their way to cleanliness, while impoverished Londoners sin and Smoke freely on the streets of a hellish, Soot-cover city. When holiness translates not only into power but also wealth, does righteousness justify oppression? (Feels a little bit too relevant, no?) A complex novel that’s as engrossing and exciting as it is eerie.

— Julia


Readers of the Harry Potter series and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are sure to be mesmerized by Dan Vyleta’s thrilling blend of historical fiction and fantasy, as three young friends scratch the surface of the grown-up world to discover startling wonders—and dangerous secrets.
“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). . .his ending, which I wouldn’t dare reveal here, is a real firecracker.”—Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
Welcome to a Victorian England unlike any other you have experienced before.  Here, wicked thoughts (both harmless and hate-filled) appear in the air as telltale wisps of Smoke.
Young Thomas Argyle, a son of aristocracy, has been sent to an elite boarding school.  Here he will be purged of Wickedness, for the wealthy do not Smoke.  When he resists a sadistic headboy's temptations to Smoke, a much larger struggle beyond the school walls is revealed.  Shortly thereafter, on a trip to London, Thomas and his best friend witness events that make them begin to question everything they have been taught about Smoke. 
And thus the adventure begins... You will travel by coach to a grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories; where young love blossoms; and where a tumultuous relationship between a mother and her children is the crucible in which powerful passions are kindled, and dangerous deeds must be snuffed out in a desperate race against time.

About the Author

DAN VYLETA is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. He holds a Ph.D. in history from King's College, Cambridge. Vyleta is the author of three novels, Pavel & I, The Quiet Twin, which was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and The Crooked Maid, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the J.I. Segal Award. An inveterate migrant, Vyleta has lived in Germany, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. He currently resides in Stratford-upon-Avon in England.

Praise For…

“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..."

"[S]tunningly inventive." 
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."

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780385540162
ISBN-10: 0385540167
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: May 24th, 2016
Pages: 448
Language: English
ABA Admin Product Details
Data Source: ONIX
Created At: 10/4/2015 06:01am
Last Updated At: 9/19/2020 10:59am