I was really excited when I heard Pratchett’s new book was not of Discworld and was perhaps targeted for children. I’m always on the lookout for good YA books. I want to be able to introduce children to good fantasy literature and not the drivel that is out there now. Dodger starts off well, there is intrigue and we get to know our protagonist called Dodger very quickly. He’s a streetwise adolescent that moves around sewers looking for dropped items, a ‘tosher’.
We quickly get thrust into the main part of the story. Dodger, on one stormy night hears some screeching noise and decides to go above ground, just to see. What he say was two grown men beating up someone. Without thinking Dodger rushes towards them and beats them off. He rescues a girl of unknown political power which puts Dodger in a peculiar situation. Stay hidden? However, that isn’t possible as one Mister Charles Dickens is after a good story.
It took me a while to realise what was happening. Not because the story was hard to follow or the language Pratchett is using, but why was I reading a crime mystery/thriller novel? Where is the fantasy? Where is the magic? The problem with this book entirely lies with me. I didn’t realise this book wasn’t a fantasy book; I thought it was…heck, it’s Pratchett. I have a definition of what fantasy is to the fantasy genre.
I finish the book and Pratchett details who this book is about and who it is really dedicated to; he calls Dodger, historical fantasy. While I agree it is historical fiction, I beg to differ when he calls it fantasy.
I like the first line on wikipedia: Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common.
To break it down very simply, I think fantasy has to have: Magic and/or made up/mythical world and/or mythical/magica
So in my opinion I wasn’t reading a fantasy book and so I didn’t really enjoy reading it as much as someone else should have. The link to fantasy is tenuous at best. Is it a bad book? No, there were lots of interesting bits. It was great seeing how Pratchett would tie things together. How does he tie in all the real life events/people into these different scenarios? How did he make Dodger special if he didn’t have super powers or magical talents.
Pratchett did a lot of research to make sure that he had all his facts right, all his slang right (from the right era even) and to make his non-main characters (all the real life people) shine.
I’m just not cut out to read anything outside the realm of Fantasy or Science Fiction! If you want fantasy in the typical way, then this book isn’t for you.
If you want something different from Pratchett, here it is. If you want a bit of mystery and charm, then this book has it.