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Saturday, October 13, 2012


Pratchett’s historical fantasy meets his exacting standards in every way. (Review by Keith Millar)

Terry Pratchett’s new book Dodger is categorised under the heading “For Younger Readers”. That may be so, but it would take a very cynical adult indeed not to thoroughly enjoy this fantasy by this master storyteller.

Set in early Victorian London, this story has it all. The hero is a lovable rogue (or in the words of the book “a scallywag”) who deals with crooks, assassins and spies, while there is plenty of murder, romance, conspiracy, deception and adventure to keep the story rollicking along. You name it, it is all there.

And, as for the characters, the most fantastic list of both historical and fictional personalities is woven into the story. Amongst others playing roles are historical luminaries such as Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, Sir John Peel, and Henry Mayhew. Even barbershop murderer Sweeny Todd puts in an appearance.

The hero, Dodger, is probably based on the fictional character, The Artful Dodger, from Dickens’ book Oliver Twist. His mentor and father figure, Solomon, is possibly based on a very much sanitised version of Fagan from the same story. The original fictional characters in the book are a wonderful selection of the usual miscreants one would expect to find in a novel based in the east end of London during the Dickensian period, as well as various members of the gentry.

The good humoured story is about a young man who goes by the name of Dodger. He makes a living scouring the London sewers for lost valuables. When he sees two men viciously beating a young woman he intervenes and so starts a sequence of events which have a serious impact on his life.

Dodger sets out not only to discover the identity of the attackers but also to save the young woman from further harm. His journey takes him from Fleet Street to the Houses of Parliament and ultimately to Buckingham Palace, and along the way falls in love. In true heroic style, he succeeds in all his endeavours. Everything seems to point to a bright future for him as he creates a role for himself in society.

Sir Terry Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series of books and is undoubtedly the world’s premier fantasy storyteller. Described by Pratchett as a historical fantasy, Dodger meets his exacting standards in every way. With this book he has proved that, like Charles Dickens, he is able to immerse his reader in Victorian London and create a backdrop for his story which is wonderfully real. One can only marvel at the man’s skill and imagination.

Dodger is published by Doubleday. ISBN Number 978-0-06-200949-4. Recommended retail price is R295. – Keith Millar