Confession #1: I have confessed this before. I'm not a Dickens fan. I LOVE A Tale of Two Cities. It is one of my all time favorite books. Everything else he wrote? Not so much. I have never been able to make it all the way through Oliver Twist.
Confession #2: Until Dodger I had never read anything by Terry Pratchett. I would ask why some of you never told me to. But you did. Repeatedly.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A storm. Rain-lashed
city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap
desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her
captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course
not, because he's...Dodger.
Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a
street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows
a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the
unknown girl--not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful
people in England.
Dodger is a character written for me to love:
And he cried real tears, which was quite easy to do, and it shocked him inside, and he wondered if there was anything in the boy called Dodger that was totally himself, pure and simple, not just a whole packet of Dodgers. Indeed, he hoped in his soul that Simplicity would embrace the decent Dodger and put him on something approaching the straight and narrow, provided it was not all that straight and not all that narrow.
Yes, he appealed to all of my love for heroes who are truly honorable but flirt with the darker side of life. And manage to keep their sense of humor alive while doing it. I also adored Pratchett's portrayal of Charles Dickens. These two characters together-watching them interact-make this a fascinating read from start to finish.
Charles Dickens is not the only famous name to pop up in this tale. Dodger also encounters Sweeney Todd-the Demon Barber himself-Benjamin Disraeli, and Sir Robert Peel. Less well known personages of Victorian London make an appearance as well. The novel is considered a historical fantasy because Pratchett manipulated some facts such as dates. He also gave Dickens a large role and a personality to go with it. This might be a problem for me in the hands of a lesser author but Pratchett got the tone and feel of the Victorian era so well, and that matters to me far more.
In many ways the plot felt like a Victorian version of Bruce Alexander's Fielding series, including its wordiness and sometimes unnecessary detail. I liked this far more though because Dodger is such an interesting and engaging character. One that will have any reader cheering for him to win the day and anything else he can get his hands on.