View from the window seat:
On a stormy night in Victorian London, a girl leaps from a carriage to escape her vicious captors. Dodger, a clever boy with a very particular set of skills, protects her. In doing so, he begins a journey to becoming a hero.
The book’s greatest strength lies in the character of Dodger. Dodger is a tosher, someone who scours London’s sewers for anything that the city’s occupants may’ve dropped. He makes a decent living and is respected by his tosher friends. Street-smart and charismatic, Dodger is a great character. He saves the girl from the carriage, despite the fact that his instincts tell him not to get involved, instincts that have helped him survive all these years. Dodger is just so likable, and soon becomes a hero to the people of London. Though he’s extremely lucky, it’s also who he is that allows such fortunate events to sweep him onto a path he never considered.
Dodger is full of cameos from historical figures, most notably Charles Dickens and Sweeney Todd. I loved the little nods to Dickens’ works. The author does make a point of the fact that Dodger is a historical fantasy; he takes some liberties with timelines, but the conditions of the poor are described vividly and accurately (though Dodger’s life is probably more glamorous and easier than the average tosher’s would’ve been). The writing does get repetitive at times. Dodger is referred to as a tosher, geezer, dodger, and more over and over again.
I really enjoyed the ending, as Dodger uses the “fog” that obscures people’s perceptions of how events actually happen to his advantage. His reputation as a hero escalates because of the fog, and I loved how Dodger tried to struggle against it by decrying the tales of heroics circulating around London. There are many different truths, and the author deftly illustrates how the fog can become a truth of its own.
Dodger is a fun, entertaining read with a great hero and an interesting cast of historical and fictional characters.
Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.