Young Delight Review: Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton

Posted April 21, 2019 by Sophia Rose in Reviews, Young Delight / 14 Comments

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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Young Delight Review: Smoke and Key by Kelsey Sutton
Smoke and Key

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Genres: YA Fantasy Romance, YA Historical Romance
Published by Entangled Teen
Released on April 2, 2019
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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The Delight

Waking up dead in an afterlife purgatory with no memories of life before confronts a young woman who must figure it out fast when the murders begin.  Talk about a made for me book.  Gothic fantasy romance should be written more often.  I enjoyed this one by a new to me author.

Smoke and Key is a standalone YA fantasy suspense set in England- maybe Regency or Early Victorian.  I enjoyed how this one was strong on atmosphere from the beginning.  Some details were stark and clear while others were wispy pieces of background.  Characters were unique and not the least because they are all dead and in various states of decomposition.  None of the people in Under have memories until they wake up there.  They are named by any items found on them when they wake.

The main character and sole first person narrator is Key.  The story begins when she wakes in Under.  Her presence is the catalyst for things to be set in motion.  The key she holds is a powerful clue, but it is also the symbol because she is the trigger for people to begin remembering and for someone to feel threatened by the memories and start killing.  Meanwhile, Key gets to know the characters and senses connections that she can’t quite remember.  She forms friendships and starts to care about this odd community of the dead who try to make the most of what they have in this underground world below the land of the living.  There is a friendship with scholarly Journal and sweet Ribbon.  The enigmatic Smoke draws out deeper emotions in her as he acts as protector and more.  But, someone leaves her messages knows more about her than she does.

This was a book that it’s somewhat unfair to punish it by saying I slowly went from riveted to more moderated feelings as the story progressed.
The unknown and mystery of a fresh storyline and world were captivating, but of course as Key remembers her past life and figures out what is happening now it becomes more familiar territory so less fascinating by default.
I said its unfair because of course I want to know the answers to the mystery of it all even while I wanted to hold onto that initial feeling of wonder when I looked around at the bizarre-ness of the early pages.

It is also not this book’s fault that when the situation settled into place about half-way through and I got an inkling of what was behind it all and the pieces started to fall into place then I was less enamored though still very much engaged with the story.  The romance is a small part of things in the present of Under, but played a huge role in the past.  I wished it was a different romance trope (unrequited love was involved).  Though, that said, I applaud the author for making the romance a key element without tipping the balance into unneeded angst.

In truth, there are going to be a great many people that will find the end and how things resolve to be a let down, romance and other wise if they they had certain expectations.  I did feel a little disappointed, but it fit.  The situation had to resolve this way- bittersweet as it was.

YA warnings- moderate violence, mild closed door sex, no language

I’m wrapping up without having said too much specific because I think the strength of this piece is going in blind and the discoveries that await each reader.  It’s going to be best suited for those who prefer an even blend of the elements rather than romance front and center and particularly those who enjoy macabre gothic situations.

My thanks to Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

New Release #51
Magical RAT OWLs #3 Herbology (book with plant on cover)


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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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Genesis @ Whispering Chapters

The cover is really pretty! And sometimes, knowing things early on can change how you feel towards a book, whether for good or for bad. I’m glad you still enjoyed this one despite that 🙂
Genesis @ Whispering Chapters

Sophia Rose
3 years ago

Yes, the cover is gorgeous and it feels perfect for the tone of the story.

I lost some of the marvel I was feeling when I had it all figured out, but it was still a good story and I wanted to see it through to the end.

Thanks, Genesis! 🙂

Mary Kirkland
3 years ago

What an interesting story line. Have a Happy Easter.

Sophia Rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Mary Kirkland

It was definitely that, Mary. You have a Happy Hoppy Day, too. 🙂

Lindy@ A Bookish Escapd

I enjoyed this one too; the atmosphere, mystery, characters, etc. I agree that the beginning was more intriguing l, but as you begin to figure things out, the story becomes less so! Happy Easter Sophia!

Sophia Rose
3 years ago

It had the wonderful shock and awe value, but then lost that for the latter half. There were a few surprise blips if one didn’t figure out the truth early. I loved this, but did feel it need a little more in the last half.

Have a great Easter, Lindy!

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer

Sometimes going in blind is best. The mystery has me curious. Lovely review my friend!

Sophia Rose
3 years ago

Indeed. This is definitely one of those. It was a nice change up.

Crystal @ Lost in Storyland

I love the cover to this book! I agree that it’s difficult to maintain the same level of interest after figuring out the plot. It happened to me recently with a series that I had been engrossed in. I’m curious now what is the mystery and how this book wraps up. I’ll have to check it out.

Sophia Rose
3 years ago

Even after I worked it out, it was still a solid read. Hope you like it if you get the chance, Crystal.

Rachel @Waves of Fiction

I usually stay away from ghost love stories because how can they end well? Unless both love interests are dead that is. Glad to hear the rest of the story worked for you. Fab review, Sophia Rose! 🙂

Sophia Rose
3 years ago

I agree! Ghost romance can be tricky and generally doomed from the start. This pair are both in the same situation so that part worked. She did a great job of making the ending what it needed to be for the situation, too. 🙂

Carole rae
3 years ago

Gothic fantasy romances are rare ones. And they are hit or miss from my experience.

Sophia Rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Carole rae

So true! 🙂