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
Vyleta's latest is a fiercely inventive novel set in a late Victorian Britain at once recognizable and intricately transformed. Best friends at an elite boarding school, Charlie Cooper and Thomas Argyle accept the way their world works: dark thoughts and deeds immediately cause black "Smoke" to emanate from human bodies, and the upper classes rule by virtue of being visibly more pure than the lower. Then the friends spend Christmas at the baronial home of Thomas's uncle Baron Naylor, and everything changes. They are both attracted to his daughter, Livia, and her half-brother, Julius Spencer, Thomas's cousin and a prefect at their school, hides a violent soul behind an irreproachable persona. Meanwhile, Lady Naylor is conducting secret research that throws everything they believe from the texts of the Bible to the very nature of Smoke into doubt. After investigating her laboratory and being attacked by an unknown assailant, Livia and the boys make for London, where they risk their lives for the chance to change their nation and themselves. 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. Dickensian in its imaginative scope and atmosphere, Smoke will have readers glad that a sequel is already underway.