Dodger by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Usually a Pratchett gets a 5, but this one... there was something missing. Maybe it was the lack of humor? or that the Dickensian view of London was a little convenient? Or that I didn't really care about what happened to Miss Simplicity? Whatever the reason, it was a 4, not a 5.
Dodger (clearly the influence for Oliver's Artful friend) lives in the rookeries in Seven Dials, London. He's a tosher, a friend to all, and the "lodger" of Solomon Cohen, a Jewish jeweler/watchmaker (among other things). One day he rescues a young woman being beaten by some thugs, and his life changes. Charlie (Dickens) makes a hero out of him, reporting this rescue and starting him on a career that will intersect with Benjamin Disraeli and the Queen. Oh, and he's responsible for the take-down of Sweeney Todd. The questions of whether he'll get the girl, whether he can truly overcome his tosher/orphan background are mostly irrelevant because the outcome is obvious. The only obvious outcome that didn't happen is we never learn Dodger's background (I was waiting for some Lord or minor noble to emerge as the father).
More about the Lady would have been nice. More about Solomon's background would have been nice. The biggest surprise for me was that Dodger was 17, as throughout most of the book I was guessing 14(ish). Still, this look at early Victorian era London is well done and is an interesting, less wordy companion to Dickens' works.
ARC provided by publisher.