Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book Review: The Ruby in the Smoke

When we lived in the Netherlands I remember lots of previews coming on for a BBC mini on this book. I only noticed it because our much-loved heroine of Dr Who Rose Tyler/Billie Piper was in the lead. We didn't see it though. Not sure why. I guess it came on too late, and these were the pre-DVR days for us.

I had no idea what I was missing.

I loved Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series. We read it several years ago, and it was incredibly imagined and realized. If you've read it you know: fantastic characters, a compelling story, and an incredible world.

My friend Izzy told me about The Ruby in the Smoke, and then kindly brought a copy over last week. I devoured it within 48 hours.

So. good.

It's a mystery (you had me at mystery) set in the Victorian era. The main character is 16-year-old Sally Lockhart, recently orphaned, who is working to understand what happened to her late father. It involves, among other things opium, a ruby (duh), the South China Sea, India of the British Empire-era, a horrendously vile character (the creepily delectable Mrs. Holland) and a whole cast of good-hearted London imps (can the Victorian tale exist without them?) that befriend and help Ms. Lockhart.

I hate to give too much away, but I SO RECOMMEND this. I think part of it is that I have spent most of the month reading MG books, and while I enjoyed most of them, they haven't pulled me in the way other books can. This reminded me that it's not me, it's just the books I have been reading. Though perhaps you need a few ho-hum books to remind you what makes an exceptional book.

There is apparently a whole series, which is now on my growing list of books to read.

Though I love reading tales set in the British Victorian era, I have no desire to write one. But, Sally Lockhart's fantastic mystery does have me thinking.

I'm getting an itch to set my next book in the Netherlands in the Golden Age. I fell asleep last night imagining a Dutch version of steam punk. The key difference of course is the...ahem, steam.

Is windpunk a term yet? That's their energy source of choice.

Mark my words. Mark your calendars. I think it will be now.

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