By Dan Vyleta
Doubleday, 2016, 431 pages, Science Fiction
Welcome to an alternate Victorian England where wicked thoughts (both harmless and hate-filled) appear in the air as telltale wisps of Smoke. Thomas Argyle, a son of aristocracy, has been sent to an elite boarding school. Here he will be purged of Wickedness, for the wealthy and powerful do not Smoke. After a trip to London, Thomas and his best friend Charlie witness events that make them begin to question everything they have been taught about Smoke. But if everything they have been taught about Smoke is a lie, what else about their world is lies? And who can they trust?
Vyleta asks some age-old questions about faith and reason and the nature of good and evil with this novel. In this gaslamp fantasy version of Victorian England, the answers are frightening but also very intriguing. While the main premise is a philosophical question, and the story occasionally gets bogged down by it, this book also contains plenty of action and unexpected plot twists. Vyleta also keeps things interesting by constantly switching perspectives in the story. Every character has a different motivation for the things they do.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that Vyleta is currently working on a sequel, as the ending felt very unresolved (if hopeful) to me, but the book definitely held my attention to the end. This book is getting comparisons to the Harry Potter series, but I must admit that I didn’t really see the connection.