England. A century ago, give or take a few years.
An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.
An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they ve been taught is a lie knowledge that could cost them their lives. A grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories.
A love triangle. A desperate chase. Revolutionaries and secret police. Religious fanatics and coldhearted scientists. Murder. A London filled with danger and wonder. A tortured relationship between a mother and a daughter, and a mother and a son. Unexpected villains and unexpected heroes. Cool reason versus passion. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn t clear.
This novel was no easy read, and while I was initially very intrigued by the author’s concept the endless and sometimes redundant narration soon grew to be tiresome. That is not to say that the novel did not have it’s good parts only that the bad outweighed the good. It took me almost a month before I finally reached the final page of this novel.
The beginning seemed promising and the premise interesting and the first chapter managed to ensnare me right away. Unfortunately, this was followed by an over complicated plot line. The writing was laden with hidden meaning and fraught with intensity and so I laboriously endured lengthy descriptions. However, the detailed plot which followed seemed over complicated and ultimately rendered the novel anticlimactic.
Tom, one third of a weirdly crafted trio, is dark and tarnished by his inherent ability to create heavy smoke. His ability to sin, which goes above and beyond the average boy, always plagues his every thought and controls his actions. Charlie on the other hand was the golden boy. He came from wealth, smoked very little and was infused with an inherent goodness which contrasted against Tom’s inability to keep his smoke at bay. Livia falls somewhere in the middle. Desperately trying to restrain her smoke and maintain an unachievable amount of decorum which falls to the wayside when she accompanies these boys on a dangerous mission to stay alive and prevent a potentially world destroying plot.
And while there is a love triangle it does not follow the traditional model which plagues many other novels. There is no vying for affection or deep seated resentment between the boys. Instead, their friendships prevail and the relationships, while strange and sometimes unbalanced, do not interfere with their actions.
So while I enjoyed the novel and look back on it fondly this is more due to the setting than any actual headway the novel made in terms of plot or characters.