Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson

Book Review

After the first few chapters of The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson (Headline) I considered giving up as I was not particularly impressed. The stock characters were acting out a story that's by no means new. And the romance, which can be seen coming a mile off, was almost ridiculously clichéd.

There were a few touches of depth; the lead character Ellie is a suffragette and Benson writes about the restraints and patriarchy that she encounters with passion and warmth. The history of Central American ancient cultures was also interesting and an area I don't know much about, but this was all overwhelmed by the rather unoriginal story-line.

But I carried on reading, and I'm not sure exactly what it was that hooked me in but something did and I finished The Smoke Hunter in a day and wanted to read more. I'd like to say that it was the fascinating history that got me hooked, but I think it's more likely it was the dreadfully predictable but still somehow page turning romance.

Here's the blurb:

Chasing a threat born in smoke...

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 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.

The Smoke Hunter has been likened to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, and I'd add The Mummy films into the mix. And really, The Smoke Hunter should be a film, and probably will become one; it has all the action, romance and intrigue of a blockbuster and the writing is very visual.
It's also very fast paced, slightly exhausting at some points.

It also has typical stock Hollywood characters; the independent and slightly stuffy woman who's just waiting to burst free of her corsets, combined with devil-may-care but deep down goodhearted leading man. I did tire rather quickly of Benson's use of the words 'chiseled' and 'tanned' in describing Adam Bates, and the fact that there were an inordinate amount of times that he and Ellie accidentally ended up half-clothed, soaking wet and in very close proximity to each other.
Yet I kept reading and, although the book snob part of me is embarrassed to admit, I enjoyed The Smoke Hunter. Yes it's predictable, clichéd and rather silly, but damn it's enjoyable.

I also really liked the history; Mayan culture is something I know nothing about so I have no idea how factual the book is, but it seems as though a lot of research went into it and it has made me keen to read up on Mayan and Aztec cultures.

The ending of The Smoke Hunter has been left relatively open and I would like to read another if Benson writes a sequel. I'll just intersperse it in with some classics to convince myself I'm still really clever and literary, while all the time hoping that Ellie and Adam will hurry up and shag.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Smoke Hunter was released on November 3rd 2016. I was supplied with a copy of the book via NetGalley on a read to review basis, my thanks to the author and publisher.

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