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(Smoke #1)

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  5,482 ratings  ·  1,079 reviews
In an alternate Victorian England those who are wicked are marked by the smoke that pours out of their bodies. The aristocracy are clean, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot.

Thomas Argyle is the only son of a wayward aristocrat. Charlie Cooper is his best friend. When Thomas finds himself under the boot heel of a s
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Doubleday
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Nancy This book was weird. I liked the premise at the start but did not like the direction it took.
This book was weird. I liked the premise at the start but did not like the direction it took.
Ashleigh Sort of? There's an overarching romantic triangle, but it isn't the main focus by a long shot.…moreSort of? There's an overarching romantic triangle, but it isn't the main focus by a long shot.(less)

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Average rating 3.27  · 
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 ·  5,482 ratings  ·  1,079 reviews

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Emily May
DNF - 50%

This book has a fascinating premise. Part historical fiction, part paranormal dystopia, it imagines a Victorian world where sin is visible in the form of an ugly smoke that leaks directly from a person's body. Imagine it: your anger, lust and shame displayed for the world to see.

The beginning opens in a rich, upper-class boys' boarding school near Oxford. And, at first, it is compelling. Thomas and Charlie are the protagonists; each likable and sympathetic enough to capture our interest
This is a dark atmospheric and imaginative dystopian novel that feels intensely like a world that is Victorian and Dickensian. This is society divided by Smoke which marks the poor, whose clothes and bodies are clearly marked by soot and smoke. The rich and powerful use it as an instrument of power and control. The well off do not smoke either through discipline or through underhand subversion of smoke with the use of specific sweets and cigarettes available to those in power. We become acquaint ...more
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
Smoke is stunning and sublime. A piece of fiction like this does not come along very often. This is a firm favourite of mine now forever. Totally adored it. I'm stunned by so many low reviews. Truly.

This book has the most fascinating plot. Quite simply your sin shows to the world as soot, smoke, grime on your body and clothes. Thinking something bad about the person you are with? Careful your white shirt doesn't start to spoil with smoke and soot.

There are seekers who are determined to find a wa
Elyse  Walters
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Smoke", by Dan Vyleta was "bloody marvelous"!

From the first line in the book..."Thomas, Thomas! Wake up,"....( which 'did' grab my attention) the very last sentence of the book....( I'm still smiling ear to ear,
but I'm not dishing out this line),...I had a BLAST OF FUN hanging out with the teenagers, Charlie, Thomas, and Livia ...(all of noble birth).

There is adventure, ( dystopia adventure), mystery, rich vs. the poor, and young love. There are political and moral overtones with the To
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a novel in which I admired what the author was trying to do — I appreciated his vision and cleverness of story — but ultimately, this is a flawed book and it didn't completely work for me.

Smoke is set in Victorian England, but it's a revised version. Characters in this world show their sin by smoke. So if you have sinful thoughts or deeds, different colors of smoke will rise from you, and everyone can see it.

The story opens at a prestigious boys boarding school, and we see the bullying t
Dannii Elle
I received this on a read to review basis from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Dan Vyleta, and the publisher,Harper Collins, for this opportunity.

Smoke is the name for the physical transmutation that appears on a person's body and clothing as a physical sign of their internal sin. Whether in thought or deed, the sinners are marked for society to judge by the severity of the smoke that marks their physiognomy. This leads to an almost religiously fanatic feel to permeate the book and often rea
Helene Jeppesen
The concept of this book was very intriguing: It deals with a world in which you literally start smoking when you sin. In other words, sin is very visible, and at school you are taught to try and hide your sins.
It's exactly at a school that we meet our two main characters, Thomas and Charlie. Circumstances, however, lead them away from school one Christmas, and that's where the story really takes off.
I really liked the two boys as well as this mysterious, yet fascinating world. I think that's
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
One of the benefits of a cross-country airline flight is a lot of sitting without other distractions competing for your time. Without a back and forth trip this weekend, I'm not sure how long it would have taken me to finish this book.

I should start by saying that upon reflection, I'm not sure this is really the book for me; however, I think a lot of people will love it.

"Smoke" tells the alternate-history version of Victorian England where people emit a smoke whenever they do something bad like
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Dan Vyleta’s previous novels, particularly, “The Quiet Twin,” a dark, historical mystery, and so was thrilled to have the chance to review his latest offering. “Smoke,” is a very different novel to his previous work, but will hopefully bring him a whole new audience, which has to be a good thing.

The novel begins at a prestigious boys boarding school in an alternate England. It has a sort of Victorian, steam-punk, feel to it – from gas lamps and carriages to public executions – this is a
Althea Ann
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm quite certain that reviews of this book will make much of its 'Dickensian' atmosphere and setting. The author is clearly aiming for such, with quotes from Dickens included... However, something kept poking at me, saying, "Dickens? Hmm... that's not quite it." And suddenly it sprang at me: Joan Aiken. (Yes, Aiken has more than a touch of the Dickensian herself.) But that's the feel of this book exactly. If you loved Joan Aiken's books as a kid, you will LOVE this book now. It's aimed at a sli ...more
Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell

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I saw Smoke in O Magazine as part of their summer reading list. The concept sounded fascinating and I immediately suggested it to my library - they bit, and I got to be the first one to read that sucker! Score for me!

In SMOKE, sinful thoughts and actions are accompanied by bursts of smoke from the body of various colors. The upper class are not supposed to Smoke as much and do their damnedest to control it, whereas the lower class live i
May 19, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ebook, netgalley
I'm simply astounded at the comparisons this book is getting. Harry Potter? Perhaps, in so much as it contains a school (can we please get over "fantasy with a school in it"=Harry Potter? It's ridiculous). His Dark Materials? Well, there's some talk of sin, religion, and Oxford I suppose ...

This book has a fantastic premise, but ultimately I found it pretentious, misogynistic, and poorly-written.

Let's tackle pretentiousness shall we? It oozed out of every word. The author tries to make incredibl
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Smoke takes place in what feels like Victorian England, except the soot and grime is not a product of factories, but rather it comes from people. Smoke is a representation of sin. As there are different types of sin, there are different types of smoke. Everyone emits smoke from their bodies; however, those who come from wealth and nobility are taught how to control their smoke. Thus, those from wealth and class are often white and clean, while the poor are covered in soot and grime. Smoke not on ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Smoke is a scifi-fantasy set in an alternate past of Victorian England, in which peoples' sins are revealed by the Smoke that they exude, staining their clothes and even the air around them. The story begins in a very Harry-Potterish way--in a school for wealthy upper-class boys who are learning to control their Smoke. The first scene pits the two main characters, Thomas and his friend Charlie, against their arch enemy Julius, the prefect, who delights in tormenting the other boys and driving th ...more
Laurie Anderson
2.5 stars, to be sure.


The core concept of Smoke, while clever (and well-developed in the incredible opening scenes), was hammered relentlessly at the expense of deeper characterization and pacing. Some scenes were gripping, others dull. The uneven quality of the writing combined with more upper-class tweeness than I could stomach led to eventual disappointment for this reader.

But your mileage may vary, as always.
The Captain
Feb 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: walk-the-plank
Ahoy there me mateys! I really wanted to like this book. I really did. The book is an alternate history of Victorian England where sin is marked in a person by Smoke that pours out of their skin. The rich rule in absolute authority because they be clean and seemingly free of Smoke. The poor live with an abundance of Smoke and are covered in soot. Their dirtiness literally signifies their status in life and their inability to govern. At least that is what everyone has been taught.

Thomas and Charl
Liz Barnsley
Smoke had an absolutely brilliant premise - an imagined alternate world where peoples sins show up in the form of smoke, to simplify matters - there is more to it than that, but that is the basics. The world is Victorian in feel and setting and quite beautifully drawn, imaginative and intelligently described. Thats the good part.

The first 3rd of this novel is intriguing, addictive and full of flavour. Sadly from then on it dips, for me into boring exposition and the story kind of drifts along. I
Jean Menzies
It brings me a little sadness to review this book because despite an exciting beginning I had unfortunately fallen completely out of love with it by the end.

The premise of this book is undeniably unique and undoubtedly what peaked my interest when I was offered a copy to review from the publisher. The story takes place in an England unlike that that exists now; potentially a future version of the country but one that feels although it is set a couple of hundred years in the past. That is, with o
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016


In an embargoed, Victorian era-esque England, the smoke is rising. Not only is it belched from chimneys in plumes that hurtle themselves straight into the miasma of your average London 'pea-souper,' an amalgamation of roiling fog, smoke, soot, sulfurous acid, and the like but also from the mouths of babes. A somatic symptom of a greater illness to a few, a tangible representation of 'sin' to the weighty and wealthy religious aristocracy, smoke fans from lips and slips from pores. More importan
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
* I was sent this for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review *

This book sets up with an interesting premise, a world where sin is visible in the form of Smoke tendrils and Soot, and where the rich can control their Smoke, but the poor can not. I think as far as ideas go, it's an interesting one with a hell of a lot of potential. I do think that the originality of this alone could have been a driving force for the story, but actually I felt as though this really wasn't pushed as
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I thought I'd enjoy for sure. The concept of it just seemed so magical. I was even wiling to overlook the fact that it may be a YA, at least if going by ages and not context. Alas, the YAness of it is the least of the detractors, the most being that it just somehow didn't work. Despite the audacity of premise and the atmospheric setting of recognizably Edwardian England it just didn't grab the reader by the (in this particular case of an audiobook) ears and commanded undivided at ...more
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually 3.75 stars (hey if people can do half stars, why not the occasional quarter star?)

What a delightfully strange book! Picture an England on the cusp of the industrial revolution but held back by a quasi-religious fear of emotion and technology (Hold on a minute, I thought the Brits did avoid emotion and new-fangled things...). In this world people emit, imbibe, and carry around Smoke. An ethereal thing that makes their passions visible and tangible and fungible to the world around them.

Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
*** I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review***

‘Smoke’ by Dan Vyleta is a historical fiction cross mystery novel set in a world in which people who are wicked in thought or action are marked by the taint of a strange Smoke that pours from their bodies. The lowest of sinners, those most profoundly marked by Smoke, are considered the most evil members of society, the lower class and common folk are not much better, barely able to control their corruption. This al
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, can-con
How do you start a revolution?
You baptise a corpse.

Over the past few years, and based on just two of his books – The Crooked Maid and The Quiet Twin – I have become quite a fan of author Dan Vyleta: his plots have been fascinating and his writing masterful. When I saw that he had a new book, Smoke, coming out, I was delighted; there are so few givens in my reading life, but I knew I would love Vyleta's new book...and I didn't love Vyleta's new book. The setup was really intriguing, and then
Meg (fairy.bookmother)
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-edelweiss
Dan Vyleta's Smoke is what you would get if you crossed Henry James with Philip Pullman and is set it in some post-apocalyptic Victorian-ish England in which Smoke is the manifestation of humanity's emotional existence – the soul, the spirit, some other sublime aspect of ourselves. London itself is a cesspit of Smoke and Soot, running rampant with all sorts of behavior. There is a lot of interplay with levels of class, with the ideas of right and wrong, and with adhering to social expectations o ...more
Chantal Lyons
I don't want to denigrate Vyleta's feat here - although I've personally only given it three stars, it's quite remarkable. The most original story I've read in a long time.

I just never felt gripped, unfortunately. I suppose that's down to two things - I didn't take to the way the plot unfolded, and Vyleta's fantastical concept of Smoke was too clever and complex for me to ever fully get my head around and understand the rules of. The author clearly lived and breathed his alternative England in wr
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss, reviewed
Thinking about your auntie's knickers? Smoke.

Sneaking a nip of the communion wine? Smoke.

"If the moral pestilence that rises with [the corrupt] could be made discernible . . . how terrible the revelation," Charles Dickens once wrote. In this evocative novel of Olde England, smoke is the visible manifestation of vice. London lies beneath a blanket of smut, the sun a dim orange glow at noon. Smoke envelops the city, soot blackens the faces of the lower classes and the crumbling architecture and ho
This is one of those bizarre books where I can't quite summarise my thoughts and feelings on it.

Set in an alternative Victorian England. The premise being that sin is physically visible through the 'smoke' that everyone emits. The darker the sin, the darker the smoke.

Excellent idea for a novel, and the first third of the book is very engaging. Now, to be honest, I much preferred this when it was set in the boarding school, and I thought this is where the main locale of the novel would be based
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Power is underwritten by morality. Those who rule, rule because they are better people than their subjects. It's written on our linen. It cannot be denied."

Ok, wow. Prior to reading this book, I read a lot of negative / not-so-thrilling reviews, so I spent the majority of the time waiting for the ball to drop. And for me, it never did. I can see where other reviewers are coming from with some weaker parts of the book, which I'll explain later on in this review, but here's the thing: what I lov
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, my did I enjoy this ride!
Some people smoke. I don't mean with cigarettes. I mean smoke emanates from people's body signifying sin.
But not everyone smokes. What gives? Vyleta wrote an exciting story for me. Not everyone bought the fantasy.
I'm going to look up his previous novels.
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Born to Czech emigre parents, Dan Vyleta is an inveterate migrant who has lived in Germany, Canada, the USA and the UK. Dan’s debut novel Pavel & I gathered immediate international acclaim and was translated into eight languages. His second novel, The Quiet Twin, was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; his third, The Crooked Maid, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize ...more

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Smoke (2 books)
  • Soot

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“For what after all is Smoke? Yearning. Courage. Anger. The type of fear that coils itself into a fist. Defiance. Triumph. Hope. It’s the animal part of us that will not serve.” 0 likes
“For a minute and more after this announcement, Thomas goes deaf. It's a funny sort of deaf: his ears work just fine but the words he hears do not reach his brain, not in the normal manner where they are sifted for significance and given a place in the hierarchy of meaning. Now they just accumulate.” 0 likes
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