September 2012 by Harper Collins
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.
From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.
This book is a lot of fun. Dodger is a hilarious swindler who would take offense at being called a thief; he just finds things that have been misplaced, or would have been misplaced soon anyways. But he's good-hearted and skilled at what he does.
I love Terry Pratchett's style of narration. Something about the straight-faced, understated, tongue in cheek humor just captivated me from the very beginning of the novel. Maybe it's the word play, things like Dodger learning how to be a successful urchin by learning how to urch or a man giving Dodger a cursory glance with a good deal of curse in it. It's not a style that works for everyone, but it works perfectly for me. It's just funny. I loved each time Mr. Dickens stole a title or line for his future books from Dodger.
Dodger is historical fiction in the same way that Leviathan is historical fiction. Pratchett calls it historical fantasy. Is it entirely plausible that all this stuff in this book (multiple assassination attempts, several heroics, being raised from rags to riches, etc) happens in just week? No. But who cares? This is the sort of book that throws plausibility out the window and says "wouldn't it be cool if.." Pratchett fudges dates and places to make it work out so all his historical figures can come together. If you can accept that, the book is fun. Otherwise, the craziness will bug you.
My only question is why didn't we get more of the Outlander? That was a serious let down. It could have been so cool to have a *SPOILER* lady assassin after Dodger for most of the book. Instead, Pratchett doesn't build up nearly enough tension and throws the Outlander in at the very tail end of the book with no explanation or development. Most of the villains are like that too, more boogy men than fleshed out threats.
I will definitely have to give some of Pratchett's other books a try. I really liked Dodger, but it's a book I'd hesitate to recommend. I can't even pin down exactly what it was that made me like it, so I don't know what to identify in other readers that would make them like it. It's an interesting read.