Author: Jacquelyn Benson
Format: Uncorrected proof copy
Source: Received from publisher for an honest review
Blurb: London, 1898. Archivist Eleanora Mallory discovers a map to a legendary city . But is it the key to unravelling an ancient mystery or a clever hoax?
Compelled to find out, Ellie journeys to Central America - with a merciless enemy hot on her heels.
In a race to uncover the map's secret first, Ellie is forced to partner with maverick archaeologist Adam Bates, a man she's not sure she can trust. Together, they venture into an uncharted wilderness alive with smoke and shadows, where an even greater danger awaits them.
For what lies there whispering to be unearthed has the power to bring the world to its knees.
Join Ellie and Adam as they battle rivers of scorpions, plummeting waterfalls and pre-historic death traps on the journey to uncovering a deadly secret that could shake the fate of the world.
It took me a while to compose my thoughts enough to write a review that wasn't just "I love it, I love it, I love it". Because I feel like this is a book I've been waiting for most of my life. It's a sort of Romancing the Stone/Indiana Jones/The Mummy mix set in the Victorian era with a heroine who is smart and brilliant and with a romance that was engaging but never took over the plot - which was so exciting!
Since Ellie was kind of the stand-out amazing thing about this book for me (or at least my absolute favourite) it makes sense to start with her. She is a suffragette, a University graduate (in a time when women generally weren't supposed to be) and just an all around kick-ass lady. She is incredibly smart obviously but I really liked the way in which we were shown this. Too often in books, especially historical ones, I find that the heroines intelligence is pushed at the reader until it becomes frustrating. But here Ellie was intelligent and knew it and never ever had to prove it. To other characters or to the reader. She had her flaws - I wish she had trusted Adam sooner for example - but these just serve to make her more real and human.
The other characters were also great although I didn't love them quite as much as Ellie. Adam was an engaging and likable hero. I really liked the development of their relationship, which felt realistic. And I loved that they were a team - they worked together so well that I didn't really even notice it until I was reflecting on the book afterwards. They had disagreements but ultimately they understood each other and co-operated when it was needed. The villains - Jacobs and Dawson were also very well created and quite different from each other. Jacobs, despite seeming the bigger threat, was actually less disturbing to me. He was very cold and unfeeling and ruthless - all things that make a good villain. But it was Dawson who knew that what they were doing was wrong but went along with it out of cowardice. Who had qualms but stifled them in order to save his own life - he was the one who really bothered me.
I was concerned initially that, with such a relatively long book, the pacing would feel off or slow in places but it never did. There are scenes with plenty of action and scenes with less action but there was never a dull moment and I was kept turning the pages long beyond the "one more chapter" point! This does read like a complete novel but the ending leaves it potentially open for more books and I would definitely be interested in that. With mentions of some other characters, such as Ellie's cousin Neil, I think there is also the possibility of some companion novels rather than straight sequels. Which I would be fine with - so long as Ellie and Adam make an appearance.
Overall I loved The Smoke Hunter. If you are a fan of adventure movies then I think this is definitely a book you would be interested in or if you just love historical fiction with amazing characters - then this is it! I will definitely be wanting a finished copy of this so that I can re-read it! I know that I can't wait for more from Jacquelyn Benson!