cover image Soot


Dan Vyleta. Doubleday, $28.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-38-554022-3

Vyleta returns to the blackened streets of the late-Victorian-era dystopia introduced in Smoke in this ambitious but overlong sequel. In the first book, Smoke—a physical manifestation of thoughts that causes black clouds to emanate from the skin when a person is feeling strong emotions—was released in an attempt to create an equal society; however, the rich conspired to purge themselves of this new way to mingle emotions. Now, 10 years after Smoke was released, Vyleta’s narrative moves beyond Britain, jumping between the story of Eleanor Renfrew, the niece of the Lord Protector of England, as she hides from her power-hungry uncle in Canada with a Smoke-powered acting troupe, and Mowgli, whose body was used to unleash Smoke on the world, as he scrapes by as a thief in New York City under his new moniker, “Nil.” When Eleanor believes her uncle has found her, she flees to New York with the performing troupe of Balthazar Black. There she meets Nil, as well as a mysterious agent from the Machiavellian Company named Smith, and a beetle that seems to possess strange qualities. This band of misfits believe they have figured out ways to control Smoke and return to England for the final confrontation with the Lord Protector. Vyleta’s bold vision of a society controlled by dark emotions looms large in this stunning, if long-winded, conclusion to a remarkably inventive tale. (Feb.)