Smoke by Dan Vyleta
A Novel

68%

13 Critic Reviews

Even though it’s somewhat derivative of other books in this vein and loses its way at times, the novel's sumptuous, irresistible narrative—filled with plenty of twists and turns and imagination—will satisfy any reader.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Dan Vyleta

See more books from this Author
Dan Vyleta is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. His first novel, Pavel & I, was published to international acclaim. He lives in Wisconsin.
 
Published May 24, 2016 by Doubleday. 450 pages
Genres: History, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Smoke
All: 13 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Above average
on Mar 03 2016

Even though it’s somewhat derivative of other books in this vein and loses its way at times, the novel's sumptuous, irresistible narrative—filled with plenty of twists and turns and imagination—will satisfy any reader.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 20 2017

Considering that this story hinges so utterly on class tension, it’s crucial that the narrator also voice its many working-class characters with variation, believable accents, and dignity—and Corduner comes through with flying colors, making it easy to get lost in the capacious urban landscape of Vyleta’s imagination.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Aug 13 2016

Though its pacing falters a bit mid-book, Vyleta’s (The Crooked Maid) bold concept and compelling blend of history and fantasy offer a provocative reflection on the nature of evil, power, belief, and love.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Charles Finch on Jun 10 2016

...his novel never attains its own reality. Instead, it has the quality of a first draft, trying to make it all the way home off the initial propulsion of an exciting concept. It doesn’t have that slight madness of commitment that distinguishes the strongest books in its genre...

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on May 29 2016

The mysteries he presents can’t be solved with clues he has shrewdly seeded...Yet his ending, which I wouldn’t dare reveal here, is a real firecracker, and the lessons Mr. Vyleta wishes to impart are largehearted, even if they detonate with a loud boom.

Read Full Review of Smoke: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Jason Heller on May 24 2016

...this is a book called Smoke. Vyleta's refusal to make his central premise crystal clear eventually becomes one more gloriously murky layer of atmosphere.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Charles Finch on Jun 10 2016

...his novel never attains its own reality. Instead, it has the quality of a first draft, trying to make it all the way home off the initial propulsion of an exciting concept.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on May 29 2016

As this thriller nears its climax, Mr. Vyleta’s plot twists also require an awful lot of exposition...Yet his ending, which I wouldn’t dare reveal here, is a real firecracker, and the lessons Mr. Vyleta wishes to impart are largehearted, even if they detonate with a loud boom.

Read Full Review of Smoke: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Hingston on Jun 10 2016

...has a knack for world building, and ambition to spare. His philosophical musings, on the other hand, feel a bit simplistic by novel’s end.

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The Maine Edge

Good
Reviewed by Allen Adams on May 25 2016

Comparisons have been made to the work of Dickens – Vyleta himself has named the author as an influence – and they seem apt, although Dickens tended to bury the darkness; the twisted nature of Vyleta’s narrative sits much closer to the surface.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Hannah Beckerman on Jul 17 2016

Amid these social and political themes, Smoke is nonetheless an emotive, character-led story...Smoke is at once profound, moving and timely: a novel that tackles the most fundamental question of good versus evil.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Adam Roberts on Jul 13 2016

...despite glitches in its pacing, this is a novel that stays in the imagination long after it is read.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by ROBERT J. WIERSEMA on May 24 2016

Despite that hitch on the ending, though, Smoke is well worth reading. 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.

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Reader Rating for Smoke
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 77 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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