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Review: Smoke and Water by Tai Le Grice

First of all a big thank you to Cranthorpe Millner publishers and the author for providing me with a gifted copy of this book to review.

I’m rating this book 3.5/5 stars.

Eike is our main character and has lost his family in a tragic fire that occurred while he was away at swim practice. As a result he struggles with a lot of survivors guilt and is being raised by his grandparents.

He goes to college where he meets Damon King, and immediately feels a spark of attraction for him. But due to some events in the past he doesn’t want to acknowledge this.
I think the love story is the best developed part of this book. You can feel the attraction between the two characters and I thought they were really sweet together. I wasn’t able to quite connect with the writing, I do think it may have been edited a little bit more. That said there were some very profound quotes throughout the book.

I liked the friendship between Eike and Spex, the way they completely accepted the other person for who they were. However I did feel like none of the characters except Eike and Damon were very well developed. Eike obviously had a big family before most of them died in the fire, yet we don’t know any of their names or what their characters were like. Spex is actually named Parker but it’s never explained why he’s going by ‘Spex’, what his hobbies are or who his parents were. The setting also felt more like a high school than college.

I think the LGBT+ representation was very well done here, and I thought it was very nice how the author brought on more diversity by talking about Eike’s Korean heritage. Some things felt very natural and accurate to me, like the mentioning of traditional Korean dishes or K-pop. At other times it felt a bit forced to me and sometimes not like real-life situations. For example, Eike has some scarring on his neck from when he tried to rescue his family from the fire and he’s covered this up with a huge dragon tattoo. His very traditional and strict Korean grandparents completely encouraged this, even though in many Asian cultures tattoos are a very big taboo.

Overall I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a cute yet angsty LGBT+ romance!


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