This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Entangled Teen
Released on April 2, 2019
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.
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