Book Review: Smoke by Dan Vyleta

29921910

2stars

Title: Smoke

Author: Dan Vyleta

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Bookworld


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

We all know that feeling when a brilliant premise is bogged down by it execution. The ideas and worldbuilding behind Smoke were excellent concepts. However, the book lost its footing a quarter way through – making the bulk of the novel a sedated, plodding read.

Smoke

There is no more hateful smell in the world than the smell of Smoke.

The book begins at a private boarding school in an alternate Oxford, where all sins are made corporeal in the form of thick, black smoke. Humans are literally stained by their sin in this world. In London, smoke is especially widespread amongst the lower-class. It purportedly clouds judgement, making people of low socioeconomic groups become more susceptible to crime. On the other hand, the upper echelon of society seems to be untouched by sins and the taint of smoke. Our protagonists are Thomas and Charlie, a pair of friends who starts to question Smoke and the foundation of the world they inhabit.

Smoke was off to a riveting start, I loved the dynamics between the boys at the boarding school. Julius, one of the school’s prefects, exacts his cruel brand of justice on students who are susceptible to sins. His own unstained track records are one of the first hints of the corruption within the system of smoke. I also immensely enjoyed the relationship between Thomas and Charlie. I found their friendship genuine and complex – fraught with the tension of class divide.

The laws of Smoke are complex. Not every lie will trigger it. A fleeting thought of evil may pass unseen; a fib, an excuse, a piece of flattery.

Much of Smoke’s successes and downfall lies in the fact that it’s ultimately a mystery. Readers are pulled into the enigma of Smoke and the mechanisms behind it. The hints we get are tantalising and kept me turning the pages for the first third of the book. However, the information we obtain quickly becomes repetitive. While I appreciated Smoke making a commentary on societal divide and prejudice, I also felt that the book was too heavy-handed in its delivery of this theme and would have preferred a more subtle touch. Many of the scenes were Smoke were discussed quickly became uninteresting because of repetition. I was never fully satisfied with the way the mystery resolved (or rather, didn’t resolve) itself.

The other thing I had an issue with were the characters that were introduced in Part 2 of the novel. Initially, it excited me to see two interesting ladies introduced into the mix of an otherwise male-dominated cast. Yet, the book handled their characters poorly. Livia, despite her iron-will and opinionated mind, was quickly relegated to being the third side in an unnecessary love triangle (I have to say though, I really liked how the triangle was resolved). Lady Naylor had the makings of an excellent character: a lady scientist with hidden motives. However, we did not get to see enough of her, and I disliked her characterization later on in the novel.

I also found the pacing of Smoke uneven and especially painful towards the second half of the novel. The endless wandering and walking in Smoke gave me painful flashbacks to the very worst parts of Deathly Hallows – it seemed pointless and bleak. Unfortunately, unlike Harry Potter, it also largely went nowhere at the end. That’s my whole issue with this book, no payoff.

Regardless of my issues with the latter parts of Smoke, I still found the worldbuilding commendable in both its scope and details. Dan Vyleta has obviously given this world great considerations, and I love the questions that he managed to pose with this concept. The motivations and historical reasons behind the conception of Smoke were intriguing, I am disappointed it was not explored in more details. Instead, we got an endless litany of morality lessons, along with some truly bewildering character arcs.


What do you prefer? A great premise with poor execution, or an unoriginal premise with good execution? Of course, we would love to have both, but if I had to pick, I’d pick the second in a heartbeat.

Book Review: Fellside

26030697

4-star

Title: Fellside

Author: M. R. Carey

Rating: 4/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

I was positively gleeful when I received my copy of Fellside in the mail, being a huge fan of M. R. Carey’s first book: The Girl With All The Gifts. Comparing the two work is a pointless task, as they’re completely separate entities. Yet, Fellside retains the element I loved most from Girl: an unsettling glimpse into humanity’s psyche – especially at our lowest point.

Fellside Continue reading “Book Review: Fellside”

Book Review: The Accident Season

The Accident Season

5star

Title:  The Accident Season

Author:  Moira Fowley-Doyle

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


The Accident Season was a bit of a surprise for me, I didn’t expect it to bowl me over and delight me in EVERY way possible. I eagerly read every beautiful, haunting sentence. I craved its slight dark and off-kilter spin on reality. I laughed, cried, and loved along with all of the main characters. It’s a story about a family curse, with a big fat highlight on the family, identity, and the memories which define us.
Review-The-Accident-Season

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

Every October, Cara and the rest of her family suffers through the inexplicable accident season. Around every corner, tragedies of every size awaits them: from the little, such as a landslide of hardbacks (being a book worm is, as you are all aware, a deceptively dangerous hobby) – to the large, such as the passing of their beloved uncle, Seth. This year, Cara also discovers that Elsie, a childhood friend she has lost touch with, lurks in the background of all her photos. The mystery that is the Accident Season and Elsie seem intrinsically linked, and this book follow our protagonist as they unravel the truth. Continue reading “Book Review: The Accident Season”