SMOKE is a fascinating novel set in an alternate version of historical England. Dan Vyleta has a magical way of capturing the atmosphere of the story, setting a serious but adventurous tone as the characters go from boarding school to mysterious estates to London. The intense class divides, portrayal of London, and the attitudes of both Charlie and Thomas suggest a deep Dickens influence, though the speed of the plot follows a quicker, contemporary young adult literature pace.
While the premise is engaging and unique, I had a difficult time connecting with the characters. While the majority of Thomas, Charlie, and Livia’s parts are in third person, certain chapters featuring minor characters use first person, and the distinction creates a distance from the main characters. However, such a choice may reflect the close union of the three characters by the end of the book, as a first person narration would separate them more. Even so, Livia’s character is most sorely affected by this, as it often restricts her role to one as primarily a love interest.
SMOKE is an evocative mix of action, mystery, lies, and battles of all sorts of thoughts. Though some areas of the story leave something to be desired, the premise, refreshing ending, and complex plot make SMOKE a whirlwind of a read.