Let me preface this review by saying that Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. From his books geared toward the youngest of young adults to his adult fiction (Discworld, I love you!), he manages to consistently hit it out of the park with funny, touching novels full of likable but flawed characters.
That said, Dodger fell a little flat for me. Set in Dickensian London (and, in fact, Dickens himself shows up a time or two), Dodger chronicles the adventures of, well, Dodger. Tosher extraordinaire, Dodger scours the sewers below London for gold, coins, and anything else he can lay his hands on. But he’s not just a tosher; he’s also a geezer – part con-man, part guardian angel of the neighborhood. Known by all, Dodger often finds himself in sticky situations. Luckily, he’s an expert at getting himself back out of them!
The stickiest situation yet arises when Dodger, toshing during a rainstorm, comes to the aid of a young lady who is being thoroughly beaten on the streets. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Dodger is embroiled in international espionage, the tricky world of journalism, and plots of murder!
I’ll be the first to admit that historical fiction isn’t really my cup of tea. Occasionally, something will really jump out at me, but it’s definitely not a genre I reach for first. Part of my lack of complete joy about this book probably comes from that.
However, I do think that this book isn’t quite up to the normal Pratchett standards. While lots of things happened, I didn’t find the plotting to be particularly well done. It was definitely a meandering tale, in what felt like was a direct tribute to Dickens. I think the lackadaisical plot would have worked better, though, if the characters were a bit more compelling. Although they were all well-developed, they felt like very detailed line drawings with no life or color. For example, Dodger, although interesting and funny, consistently felt younger than he is supposed to be, to the point where I frequently had to remind myself that he was not a child, but nearly an adult.
Overall, Dodger is a fine book. Perhaps if it wasn’t by Terry Pratchett, I wouldn’t have been so hard on it – although I probably would never have picked it up in the first place/