Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
On a storm-tossed night in Victorian London, Dodger, the hero of this picaresque tale, rescues a mysterious young woman, launching an adventure involving intrigue, murder, secret identities, Charles Dickens, and, ultimately, even the Queen herself. Since so much of the story takes place in the sewers, the author's endnote explaining that during this period they were used chiefly for drainage (rather than actual sewage) might have been better placed at the book's beginning. The story of Dodger's meteoric rise from the sewers is, if largely unbelievable, whimsical and warm in tone. Unfortunately, the heroine primarily exists to be rescued, which is disappointing in a book marketed toward younger readers. The spirited, versatile voice of Stephen Briggs is, as always, an excellent match for Pratchett's playful writing. VERDICT All in all, a sweet historical adventure with more than a trace of nostalgia; possibly more appealing for adults than for younger listeners. ["Pratchett does a bang-up job of re-creating Old London for today's audience, complete with pathos, humor, and truly nasty descriptions of the filth, stench, and danger, all narrated in Dodger's unique voice," read the review of the Harper: Harper Collins hc, SLJ 11/12.-Ed.]-Victoria Caplinger, -NoveList/EBSCO Pub., Durham, NC (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
This superb novel from Pratchett is relatively subdued in its humor and contains virtually no fantasy, beyond a flavoring of early Victorian alternate history. It's not only a fine Dickensian novel-Dickens himself figures prominently. It follows a sewer-scouring "tosher" and thief named Dodger, "a skinny young man who moved with the speed of a snake," who, like a knight in soiled armor, leaps out of a drain one night to protect a young woman who is being severely beaten. Two of London's most famous figures, Charles Dickens and social reformer Henry Mayhew, appear on the scene a moment later. A complex plot gradually unravels involving the identity of the mystery girl, known only as Simplicity, and the reasons someone powerful wants her dead. Making guest appearances are such luminaries as Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria, and Angela Burdett-Coutts, the richest woman in the world at the time. Full of eccentric characters and carefully detailed London scenes, the tale embodies both Dickens's love for the common man and a fierce desire for social justice. Ages 13-up. Agent: Colin Smythe. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-The master of humorous fantasy has taken to historical fiction like a London guttersnipe to a large helping of bangers and mash, albeit with a touch of the fantastical. Dodger is an inhabitant of the worst stews of London, who makes a meager living as a tosher, a treasure hunter in the sewers under the city. His fortune changes, literally overnight, when he rescues a damsel in distress and comes to the attention of the not-yet-famous newspaperman Charlie Dickens. Together they embark on a mission to thwart the evildoers bent on recapturing the girl. Dodger is a thoroughly likable young rogue whose exploits bring him into direct contact with some of the best-known names in Victorian England-Benjamin Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, Sir Robert Peel, and, of course, Queen Victoria herself, with whom he spends a memorable afternoon taking tea. Pratchett does a bang-up job of re-creating Old London for today's audience, complete with pathos, humor, and truly nasty descriptions of the filth, stench, and danger, all narrated in Dodger's unique voice.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* On a stormy night in early Victorian London, an able young man named Dodger rises from the sewers in response to a scream, fights off two thugs, and rescues a damsel in distress. Dodger continues to rise throughout the novel, as his love for the mysterious lady motivates this tosher (scavenger for lost coins and other treasures in London's sewers) to elevate himself and leads him to a closer acquaintance with a string of historical figures, including Dickens, Disraeli, and ultimately, the queen and her consort. While most writers would be well advised not to include such characters in their books, Pratchett manages to humanize them without diminishing them or throwing the story off-kilter. However lowly Dodger's origins, he remains the most memorable character in the book. Living by his wits and unencumbered by conventional morality, this trickster hero expertly navigates the underbelly of his city as he carries out a bizarre scheme resulting in justice and mercy. The temptation to quote sentences, whole paragraphs, and possibly entire chapters is almost irresistible, because the pleasure of reading the novel is in the language as much as in the characters and well-researched period setting. Often amusing, this Victorian romp of a novel is lovingly crafted and completely enjoyable.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Who would have the skill, the sensibility, and the sass to put Charles Dickens into a novel and then proceed to write that novel in full-octane Dickensian style? Terry Pratchett, of course. Like his namesake in Oliver Twist, Dodger is a street urchin (if you wanted to be a successful urchin you needed to study how to urch) who makes his way in early-Victorian London as a tosher, a sewer gleaner. One rainy night he gallantly rescues a young woman who is being beaten up, and a complicated plot is set in motion. The cast includes Dickens, minor European royalty, Disraeli, Sweeney Todd, Charles Babbage, a philanthropist named Angela Burdett-Coutts (who alone is worth the price of admission), and Queen Victoria herself -- but none of them upstages Dodger, a young man on the make and on the brink, with his own highly developed moral code. His original take on the world and his deft way with language make him a wonderful guide through sewers, morgues, theaters, drawing rooms, pea-soup fogs, and barbershops and a story of espionage, romance, action, skullduggery, double-dealing, and heroism. Its a glittering conjuring act, but theres real heart here, too, as Dodgers horizons expand to include nature, art, and love. sarah ellis (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Pratchett leaves Discworld to bring us something that is quite nearly--but not exactly--actual historical fiction. Dodger is a guttersnipe and a tosher (a glossary would not have been amiss to help readers navigate the many archaic terms, although most are defined in the text, often humorously). He knows everyone, and everyone knows him, and he's a petty criminal but also (generally) one of the good guys. One night he rescues a beautiful young woman and finds himself hobnobbing quite literally with the likes of Charlie Dickens (yes, that Dickens) and Ben Disraeli. The young woman is fleeing from an abusive husband and has been beaten until she miscarried; power and abuse are explored sensitively but deliberately throughout. And when he attempts to smarten himself up to impress the damsel in distress, he unexpectedly comes face to face with--and disarms!--Sweeney Todd. As Dodger rises, he continuously grapples with something Charlie has said: "the truth is a fog." Happily, the only fog here is that of Dodger's London, and the truth is quite clear: Historical fiction in the hands of the inimitable Sir Terry brings the sights and the smells (most certainly the smells) of Old London wonderfully to life, in no small part due to the masterful third-person narration that adopts Dodger's voice with utmost conviction. Unexpected, drily funny and full of the pathos and wonder of life: Don't miss it. (Historical fiction. 12 up)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.