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Smoke by Dan Vyleta


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Darker than dark but tonally lighter than light, this is a keeper and a bolt from nowhere, almost like an adult version of the Harry Potter books with a touch of Dickensian dystopia. Set in a Victorian England that never was, in which a person's evil thoughts and intentions manifest themselves through the black, heavy smoke that emanates from their body, this follows the discoveries and personal odysseys of a group of boarding school lodgers whose connection to the mystery of smoke is highly personal as they set on a quest to elucidate its origins and the web of conspiracies that surround the way the whole country is influenced by it. Evocative, a vision of a pre-industrialised Britain both pastoral and ominous, a London teeming with sin and horror, and a set of characters you keep cheering on in spite of their foibles and impetuosity, this is an old-fashioned book in the best way and a sheer delight. It will also scare the pants off of you in the process and have you averting your eyes even when you are dying to know what comes next and get an answer to all your questions (which you will by the end...). ~ Maxim Jakubowski

If you like Dan Vyleta you might also like to read books by Bernhard Schlink, William Boyd and Sandor Marai.


Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible. Where anger, hatred and envy appeared as a thick, infectious smoke pouring from your body, leaving soot on your skin. A society controlled by an elite who have learned to master their darkest desires. Thomas and Charlie are friends at a boarding school near Oxford, where the children of the rich and powerful are trained to be future leaders. Charlie is naturally good, but Thomas's father was accused of a terrible crime, and Thomas fears that the same evil lies coiled inside him. Then, on a trip to London - a forbidden city shrouded in darkness - they learn all is not as it appears. So begins a quest to understand the truth about this world of smoke, soot and ash - and perhaps to change it. 'Mesmerising and imaginative ...a novel that tackles the most fundamental question of good versus evil' Hannah Beckerman, Observer 'Like an adult version of the Harry Potter books with a touch of Dickensian dystopia ...a sheer delight' Maxim Jakubowski, Lovereading 'A novel that stays in the imagination long after it is read' Adam Roberts, Guardian


'For once both comparisons (with Harry Potter and Philip Pullman's Northern Lights) are apt ... this is a novel that stays in the imagination long after it is read' The Guardian

'Mesmerising and imaginative ... Smoke is at once profound, moving and timely: a novel that tackles the most fundamental question of good versus evil' -- Hannah Beckerman, The Observer

'Astonishing ... it's filling in that gaping hole left by both Harry Potter and Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. Yes, really' Stylist

'Its subtle touches mean the story takes on a world of its own ... you'll wonder why no one has seen smoke this way before' Emerald Street

'It's detailed, multi-layered and feels authentic - and might just win over historical fiction fans too' The Pool'

About the Author

Dan Vyleta

Dan Vyleta is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. After growing up in Germany, he left to attend university in the UK where he completed a PhD in History at King's College, Cambridge. His 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, and his third, The Crooked Maid, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the J.I Segal Award. He lives in Stratford-upon-Avon.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th April 2017


Dan Vyleta

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Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co


448 pages


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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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