Dodger is a charming scamp, friend to all the downtrodden folk of London and king of the sewer toshers. His life may involve a lot of scrabbling in the filth of London town but that makes every shilling he finds in the muck all the more precious. Thanks to his friend Solomon, he has a roof over his head, not to mention all his teeth, and no one can coast along the underbelly of London the way he does. Not a bad life, Dodger's. Almost charmed, in a sense.
All that changes when he spots a girl leaping from a carriage with a pair of bruisers coming after her with their fists. He saves her and meets Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew, who take her into her charge and Dodger into a world he never imagined for himself. There's complete makeovers and accidental heroism, demon barbers of Fleet street and internationally feared assassins. And through it all, Dodger falls in love with the girl, named Simplicity, and tries his best to keep her safe.
Good book, with quite a few gems in the prose. As usual, one must admire Terry Pratchett's turns of phrase and wordplay. He had turned it down a bit in this one, though. Dodger's wiles are coupled with naivete in such a way that makes him a particularly interesting protagonist. Still, there's something off-putting about him that I can't quite put my finger on.
Maybe it's not him, but Simplicity. Aside from her first rush into freedom and one deviation from Dodger's plan later on in the book, Simplicity never acted with any agency of her own and indeed, didn't seem to have much of a personality. Her life revolved around and depended upon Dodger and other people. One might argue that passivity as a result from an abusive husband, or perhaps that passivity is a typical characteristic of young women at that time period, but nonetheless, it made her a rather flat character. Rather problematic, considering that Dodger was to change his entire life for her. Yes, it's his name on the book so it makes sense that most of the focus would be on him, but she doesn't even have a name or identity of her own. Her background is mostly kept in the dark, and her personality seems to be completely subsumed by Dodger's. At the end of the book, one might assume her life to revolve completely around his, with no ambitions or dreams of her own aside from being with him.
I suppose that's all right for some characters, but this is the girl whose appearance turned Dodger's life upside down and made him want to become a better man. Surely she'd have to be worth the change.