Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Review: The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson

2016 • 585 pages • Headline

Eleanora Mallory is an educated young woman living in Victorian London but she is restricted by the strict social codes of the late nineteenth-century. She’s a historian, a suffragette, and is years ahead of her time much to the chagrin of her male work colleagues at the Public Records Office. After losing her job and finding a mysterious map abandoned on her former employer’s desk, Ellie decides to take a chance at an adventure. She packs her bags and sets off on a journey to Central America, where the map shows the way to a legendary historical city. It’s the expedition of a life time, but little does Ellie know that a team of fortune hunters are hot on her trail.

I do love a good adventure story. Sometimes you just need to sit down with a book that gives you twists and turns at every opportunity and The Smoke Hunter definitely achieves that. For a novel of nearly 600 pages I flew through this surprisingly fast and while there were some parts of the plot I had a little trouble with this was overall very entertaining.

The Smoke Hunter runs along the same vein as the Indiana Jones and The Mummy movies – lots of fast paced action with plenty of history at its core. It was refreshing to read a historical fiction novel set outside of Europe – it’s lively and exotic and if you’re in the mood for some real escapism then this ticks all the boxes. Plus, if you like a bit of romance with your adventure then it’s got that too. Ellie teams up with the smooth talking Adam Bates, a fellow explorer who also defies society’s rules to live a life of adventure. Their relationship is fuelled by sarcasm and wit and you know pretty much where it’s going from the get go, but it’s still a lot of fun and I liked how they bounced off one another.

As entertaining as it was there was a few things that really grated on me whilst reading this I think the time period has a lot to do with it. Ellie is certainly an extremely intelligent and well educated woman for her time, and she does give her male counterparts a run for their money. However, there comes a point in the story where the men kind of take over and Ellie gets shoved to the side lines. I know this is meant to be reflective of the period but I was a little disappointed with how Ellie started to become a bit of a spare part while the male characters took charge of everything. Like, this is her adventure and the men just kind of treat her as though she’s a piece of spare baggage. She gets called a hysteric at one point which just ended up just annoying me so for the most part of the middle of the story I was waiting for Ellie to get her comeback and piss the chauvinists off, which does happen eventually but good god it seemed to take a while to get there.

I enjoyed this, I won’t say I didn’t because I devoured a near 600 page novel in three days so there was enough packed in to this to keep me interested. Sadly with most of the other characters, with the exception of Adam, I wanted to do nothing more than to teleport in to the story and kick them in the dick. Being a woman in the late nineteenth century was hard.

Overall rating: 3 stars

My copy of The Smoke Hunter was sent to me by The Bookbag and my original review was published on their website.
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