by Terry Pratchett
First sentence: “The rain poured down on London so hard that it seemed that the rain was dancing spray, every raindrop contending with its fellow for supremacy in the air and waiting to splash down.”
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Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at work, about a year ago.
Dodger is a tosher (no, I had no idea what that was before reading this; I wonder if it has anything to do with my refusal to read Dickens) and is making a fairly decent living at it. He stays with his Jewish friend, Solomon, and his dog Onan, basically just getting by. Then one night, he witnesses a girl getting beat up, and he decides to do something: he attacks the attackers, saving the girl’s life.
That small act (well, not so small) changes Dodger’s life: he goes from a simple tosher to a Man of Importance, hob nobbing with the rich famous and powerful of Victorian London.
Okay, so it’s not quite that f simple; there are a few steps involved in Dodger’s rise. He meets Charles Dickens, who helps, as does Benjamin Disraeli. It turns out that the girl is an estranged princess, which complicates matters, but Dodger — who has fallen head over heels for her — is smart and cunning and witty enough to figure out a way to help her escape her tormentors.
As far as a Pratchett book goes, it lacked something for me. It wasn’t as funny, or as charming as I hoped it would be. Dodger is an engaging hero, though I have to admit that I found myself liking Onan the dog more. It’s an interesting re-imagining of a time period — it’s not quite historical fiction and it’s not quite fantasy — and Pratchett does paint a vivid portrait of London. However, while the plot starts off strong, it kind of gets bogged down in the middle, even though the ending is sweet. I had to push myself to get through the slow parts, skimming quite a bit, just to keep the flow going.
In all, though, while not brilliant, not bad either.