By Isabella Biedenharn
May 27, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT

Smoke: A Novel

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Vice is made visual in Vyleta’s sprawling, ambitious novel, a Dickensian tale tinged with fantasy and set roughly a century ago. In his imaginary England, heated emotions—anger, excitement, or even lust—cause plumes of sooty vapor to waft from the offending body. Though everyone Smokes, it doesn’t preclude judgment: The upper classes send their children to boarding schools where they learn to control it; if they can’t, there are costly man-made ways to hide it. Troubled teen Thomas, whose Smoke is so dark and thick he’s said to have evil within him, befriends kind, well-bred Charlie at one such school, and the two stumble upon signs that perhaps the world hasn’t always been this way. With the help of Livia, a snobbish aristocrat who enthralls them both, the three set out on a dangerous but fascinating quest for the truth—which Vyleta reveals with lovely, visceral prose and expert pacing. A–

Smoke: A Novel

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