It’s been twenty years since the Great Fire. Sylvie Townsend is still protecting those she loves with the fury of the flames she faced that night. She hasn’t any time to open her heart to anyone who might break it again, especially not violin instructor Kristof Bartok, who has his own set of problems to protect—namely, his reckless brother, Gregor.
Sylvie’s father may be gone, but the little girl Sylvie promised to look after is not. But Sylvie fears she soon will be. Rose is dangerously obsessed with finding her birth family. And she may just be in the sights of someone just as obsessed with finding her own family.
I hadn’t really read the backs of the covers all that closer, so I was a little surprised to find out this book happened twenty years after the original Veiled in Smoke. It was something different to me who usually ends up reading YA fiction with YA protagonists. In fact, it was just something different for the historical fiction genre, period.
At first, it started a little slow. After Veiled in Smoke, which opened in the Great Fire, it took me a little longer to get my bearings. But all the setup was very important to the story, full of tension, and well worth it.
Sylvie’s journey of wanting to know when to let go and when to hold tighter continues from the first book, and is every bit as wonderfully done. It made me think, to be sure. There were several points in the story that I read how Sylvie responded and thought, “I couldn’t have done that.”
Kristof and Gregor’s relationship amazed me. It took such a different direction from the typical “prodigal son” narrative. Kristof’s journey of realizing he has no one’s approval to earn and that he cannot always be his brother’s keeper got my attention. Their past with their father broke my heart. (And now I am wondering if Gregor is the subject of a future book?)
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think of the villain the first time they revealed her. But the climax solved all that. She was insane. Really. It was kind of chilling to read.
Honestly, I didn’t like Rose very much at all at the beginning. She was really rude—I mean, Sylvie had done so much for her, and Rose just kept throwing it back in her face, making snide comments, and writing nasty diary entries about her. But maybe that was the way I was supposed to see it, to see it from Sylvie’s perspective instead of Rose’s. And I am happy to report that Rose improved and became a much more likable character that I could even cheer on as I neared the climax. It was neat to see her mature in her decisions. (Come to think of it, Rose could be the subject of a future book, too . . .)
Ivan was a really intriguing character, in a kind of scary way there for a while. I’ll try not to spoil the ending, but his character arc had a really beautiful ending, and I would love to see a forthcoming book about him.
As with Veiled In Smoke, oftentimes some important scenes were glossed over in a few paragraphs of exposition as characters remembered the scenes. Some of these scenes created gaps in the pacing that pulled me out of the story. For me, the scenes would have been more meaningful if I’d gotten the chance to see them, instead of just hearing the characters tell me what happened. There was at least one scene I’m thinking of that kind of hit me out of nowhere—Beth was Sylvie’s friend, and then the next scene she’s mad that Sylvie didn’t get there earlier and then decides not to be friends because Kristof came with her? It was very abrupt, unless I missed the foreshadowing earlier in the book. I can also think of one monologue by a side character that seemed a bit on the abrupt side as well.
The book dug deep into what love and protection really mean and gave me characters to cheer for and discover their mysteries long until the end. As with Veiled in Smoke, I had no idea where it was going until I reached the end. And as with Veiled in Smoke, it did not disappoint.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!