Laura Martinelli's Reviews > Dodger

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
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Oct 10, 12

bookshelves: ebook, young-adult
Read from September 25 to October 03, 2012

In comparison to the other Pratchett release this year, I read Dodger a lot more quickly and readily than The Long Earth. All the humor and wit I’ve come to know and love was here, along with characters with a lot of heart and smarts. That said, while I liked it, I don’t love it.

One of my slight pet peeves with historical fiction is having the main characters constantly brush up to historical figures, despite the fictional characters’ social status. (One series that’s really good about this is Marie Brennan’s Onyx Court quartet, where it starts out hobnobbing with the Elizabethan Court and steadily moves away from name-dropping.) In the case of Dodger, Pratchett does toe the line between doing this well and drawing it out. I felt the story just stopped any time Dodger had to go out in society. There are names that are unfamiliar with certain audiences, such as Henry Mayhew and Angela Burdett-Coutts. On the flipside, you’ve also got moments of look, it’s Mr. Benjamin Disraeli! And Mr. Dickens! And Sir Robert Peel! And the dreaded Demon Barber of Fleet Street! (Although I loved what Pratchett did with Sweeney Todd, especially his backstory in this verse.) If the historical cameos had been handled better, without the equivalent of a giant lighted arrow pointing it out, I think I would have liked it a bit better, but here it feels like overdone.

And part of the problem of the above is the rapid ascension of Dodger into society. I loved the first part of this book, with Dodger navigating London’s sewer system and the life of toshers. And I really enjoyed every time Dodger had to rely on his wits and his street smarts to investigate Simplicity’s kidnapping and who’s behind it. But every time he went to go see Simplicity and they went out on the town, the plot felt like it came to a screeching halt. (Which lead me to a realization as I was writing this—if Simplicity’s supposed to be hiding and she’s actually nobility, why is she being paraded around like there’s no issue? She doesn’t even have a proper disguise for most of the book, it’s just reliant on “Oh, she just looks like that missing girl. Carry on.” )

I do quite like Dodger. He’s the main reason why I enjoyed reading. He’s not a perfect character, and he does have to rely on his street smarts and the occasional luck from the Lady. I liked that Dodger analyzes the situations he gets himself in from all angles, and that he does remain a very sympathetic and quite noble character. I really lliked his unease with the evolving legend of how he defeats Sweeney Todd—that whenever someone congratulates him as a hero, Dodger does try to defend Mr. Todd. Mostly, I loved his quasi-parental relationship with Solomon. There’s a lot of backstory that summed up between the two, but it really does feel like the two care for each other under the guise of mutual agreements. (I really want a prequel to this book.) Solomon, btw, was the best character in the whole book. I loved his slightly deadpan snarky style and the fact that he’s just as street-smart and quick as Dodger is.

Simplicity was fine. She’s got a lot of determination and I liked that she realizes the conflict she’s forced into—does she do what’s morally right or what’s legally right. My problem is that she’s too Victorian. By which I mean, she’s characterized as an object of purity and goodness that Dodger desires. I never got why the two fell for each other, I could have seen them departing as just good friends and Simplicity having a soft spot for Dodger because he rescued her (and Dodger still having his crush on Simplicity), but we never really got to see her full personality to justify the two being in a relationship. She’s a good character, yes, but there’s a lot of room to work with her as well.

The other characters were fine, although I’m not entirely in love with them. Again, a lot this ties back into my above mention about rubbing elbows with historical figures. And when you have a book called Dodger, and there’s a lot of Dickens references, not to mention a writer named Charlie…it hits the nail a little too hard in my opinion. (Actually when I first read about the book, I thought Charles Dickens wasn’t going to show up until the very end.)

It’s not a bad book, and I’m actually planning on recommending it at work. It’s certainly a lot more enjoyable than The Long Earth was. But I couldn’t seem to jump in and just go along for the ride with this one either. I’ll probably have to give it a reread eventually and see if my opinion changes.
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