Smoke and Key – Kelsey Sutton

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*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing (Teen)The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*


Smoke and Key 35663364Blurb:  A sound awakens her. There’s darkness all around. And then she’s falling… She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she’s dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single, rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names – from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. None of them remembers who they used to be. Under is a place of dirt and nightmares, and Key is determined to discover the secrets of her past in order to escape it. She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. There’s Smoke, the boy with sharp words and a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, the boy who stays apart from everyone else and loses himself in books and science. Key’s instincts tell her that there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can’t remember why. Then the murders start, bodies that are burned to a crisp. After being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was – and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden – before she becomes the next victim.


From the first moment I woke in a coffin with Key, and fell with her into Under to be surrounded by living corpses I felt breathless with fear and wonder.  So many questions!  How are they dead, yet conscious?  Why can no one remember anything, even down to their own name?  Why, why, why?

In fact, Key coped with the whole situation a whole lot better than I would have imagined, even managing to get in some flirting and a bit of light reading whilst striving to uncover a murderer and return to the land of the living (or at the very least understand how she left).  The plotline was utterly compelling, but I felt that the emotional reactions were a little flat, and I didn’t get enough time to really start caring about the Under residents before they went up in flames.

It felt like there were so many other stories, smaller stories swirling around the outskirts of this plot:  the mysterious Brooch; poor little Doll; Freckles and Fiddle and… the list went on and on.  I wanted to know all about them all!

The dark and unsettling tone that pervaded from beginning to end reminded me strongly of favourite Tim Burton films like The Corpse Bride or Sleepy Hollow, and there was a similar approach to portrayals of the dead as The Corpse Bride or Coco; initial revulsion at the physical aspects followed by a more sympathetic realisation as the characters develop.  It was also much easier to keep track of all of the characters with each one having a unique identifier in the significant item they brought to Under with them.

This story has mystery, romance, intrigue and betrayal.  My favourite aspect was attempting to slot the Under characters into the flashback narratives of their Over lives – it was like forming a jigsaw whose pieces are only revealed one at a time (and don’t always fit together until a later piece is uncovered).

I would recommend this to anyone who likes a dystopian romantic mystery with heapings of the paranormal.


While I examine our surrounding, my eyes feeling so huge they might as well swallow the rest of my face, Smoke watches me.  “You’ll have to pick one of your own, you know,” he says.  “A name, I mean.  Usually we just use whatever we fell into Under with.  Splinter, Smoke, Doll.”

– Kelsey Sutton, Smoke and Key


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pro_reader.pngFind more from Kelsey Sutton at her website here, or follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Smoke and Key is out on Amazon right now!



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