Author: Peter David
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Selected By: Elle Tea
“Oliver Twist is one of the most well-known stories ever told, about a young orphan who has to survive the mean streets of London before ultimately being rescued by a kindly benefactor.
“But it is his friend, the Artful Dodger, who has the far more intriguing tale, filled with more adventure and excitement than anything boring Oliver could possibly get up to. Throw in some vampires and a plot to overthrow the British monarchy, and what you have is the thrilling account that Charles Dickens was too scared to share with the world.” – from the Goodreads summary.
Elle Tea’s Review
For those of you unfamiliar with the work of Charles Dickens, this novel stars one of Dickens’ most neglected supporting characters: the child criminal Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger.
Dodger – as written by Dickens – is a pickpocket by trade and the leader of a gang of juvenile delinquents, all of whom have been trained by a miserly old man named Fagin, who is often referred to throughout Oliver Twist as “the Jew.” The Artful finds the rather mousy and spineless (but undeniably lucky) Oliver on the street and gives him a home and his friendship; he tries to teach Oliver the tricks of the trade so that little Twisty might support himself, but those attempts ultimately fail. Illegitimate Ollie eventually lands in the lap of luxury, being adopted by one Mr. Brownlow (a turn of events due solely to sheer dumb luck), at which point he promptly neglects everyone who helped him out along the way; Fagin, who took in all those unloved street urchins, ends the novel with his neck stretched by a hangman’s noose, while the Artful Dodger is eventually caught in possession of stolen goods and is assumed to have been sent to a penal colony in Australia.
And that’s it for the Dodger for almost two-hundred years.
Artful begins exactly where Oliver Twist left off: Fagin is swinging, and the Artful is moments away from being shoved onto a boat with a one-way ticket to Oz.
It’s a clever novel, and a humorous one, written in the same highly-stylized manner as Dickens’ novel but without all of the verbosity (Charles Dickens’ tendency to drag on and on and on was due mainly to the fact that, unlike modern authors, he was paid per word). If you are unfamiliar with Oliver Twist, Dickens, or nineteenth-century English society and history, never fear: the first few chapters of the book really will tell you everything you need to know, and David does an excellent job of humorously weaving all of the necessary information into the fabric of this novel. Popular figures come into play, as do nineteenth-century urban legends and stereotypes, not to mention vampyres (of course) and England’s very first mental institution – but our modern author also gives our hero a more twenty-first-century mentality and, as with the original source material, takes an opportunity to slide in commentaries on exploitation, child abuse, and prostitution.
And there are vampyres. Naturally.
I don’t want to say too much, since determining who the characters are from history (and other literary works) is a large part of the fun of this book. But I will say I would recommend this to just about anyone looking for a leisurely, diverting read that offers quite a few laughs in the face of classic lit. Taking classic literature and inserting supernatural and paranormal elements into the already well-known plots has become a literary fad in recent years (for example, the Regency’s own zombie-killer), but, having read a couple of these already, I can say Artful does it with more wit and skill – and, oddly enough, more respect for the classic tale that spawned this remix – than most.
Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.