Smoke: A Novel by Dan Vyleta (2016)
Fiction | Fantasy | Historical | Mystery
“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.
This is the world of Smoke, a narrative tour de force, a tale of Dickensian intricacy and ferocious imaginative power, richly atmospheric and intensely suspenseful.”
Expected Publication Date: May 24, 2016
pooled ink Review:
If the book’s blurb doesn’t immediately take you captive then you must be a tinge mad because it contains everything required of a desperately good read.
This slanted world of good and evil trods along at a brisk English pace. The story moves along at its own dignified speed, beginning with a frantic wake from sleep and a long-time tradition of midnight interrogations amongst the boys. Confess your sins or the smoke will do it for you. Either way you will be punished for your sinful spirit, as are the rules of the school.
I found Vyleta’s writing to be seamless to fall into and roll along with its current. He definitely has a strong talent for storytelling, at least via writing. One can immediately tell that this story is not American and not of this time for the style is quite different, more somber, frank, evenly paced, and flowing. It’s perfect for the telling of this bleak mysterious account of Thomas, Charlie, and Julius as they rebel, stumble, and pry their way into startling truths about their lives.
Vyleta writes a thrilling fantasy that seeps into your skin holding you caught in its addictive grasp as it transports you back a century into the English countryside at a boys school, a pompous hierarchy amidst a world where sin and wickedness reveals itself in the form of smoke and soot. One cannot hide their evil thoughts or dark deeds because it pours out for all to witness. Intriguing, chilling, mysterious, and quite English, Smoke rapidly ensnares the reader and draws them into its withered world.
This story could easily fit into the themes of Midsomer Murders, Charles Dickens’ tales, Agatha Christie’s works, or the like but with its own twist of unsettling fantasy. It’s cover art as well describes the book precisely. The art is actually an impressionist painting by Claude Monet – Houses of Parliament, Sunset – (which I only know because I’m an occasional art nerd) and it astutely conveys the mood of this book. Yes, I quite enjoyed this story. It’s a good one for a dreary day with a cup of coffee or tea and a blanket to curl up with.
Purchase here: Smoke: A Novel
Meet Dan Vyleta!
Dan Vyleta is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. After growing up in Germany, he left to attend university in the UK where he completed a Ph.D. in History at King’s College, University of Cambridge. He now calls Canada his home. When not reading or writing novels, Dan Vyleta watches cop shows, or listens to CDs from his embarrassingly large collection of Jazz albums. An inveterate migrant, Dan Vyleta was last seen in the Great Lakes region.