To be honest, I hadn’t expected the vampires.
by Peter David
47North, July 2014
Victorian paranormal fantasy
provided by NetGalley
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 brilliant mind of novelist and comic book veteran Peter David,Artful is the dark, funny, and action-packed story of one of the most fascinating characters in literary history.
In hindsight, I should have probably expected them, considering it’s a highlight in the summary of the book. But clearly I didn’t read the summary fully and only got past the first sentence about the Artful Dodger…
The reading was a lukewarm experience, because while I don’t normally mind reading another vampire novel, particularly one that is set in the Victorian period, I did have certain issue with the execution of the tale. Part of it was probably because the dated language was rough around the edges. I guess the closest thing I could compare it to (and only because I’ve been trying to get my students to work on their Christmas show song) is a piano piece: Artful is to someone playing Schubert’s “Serenade” by plunking with one finger as Oliver Twist is to a smooth two-handed rendition of the same piano piece.
Not sure if that makes things any clearer, and the difference is stark, but in reality I did like the book enough to finish it.
The beginning did drag on, however, and it was only during my reading about Fagin and Mr. Fang that I actually perked up and got interested in the story. The Artful Dodger himself was an interesting character, and probably the appeal to this book is the fact that Dodger was a reworked character taken from a Charles Dickens novel. Certainly that was the reason why I was interested in a reader copy of Artful. But in the end, I saw Dodger’s back story and relation to the Oliver Twist tale as unnecessary. Dodger could have just been any random thief-anti-hero character created for a fictional historical during the days of young Victoria and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Sure there were familiar characters from the Oliver Twist tale that were probably cool to see, but they weren’t much more than cameos, so could have been taken off entirely.
The vampire conspiracy was something out of a Victorian pulp, which, for me, was the best part of the book. I liked that young Victoria had a slight role to play in the story, liked the inclusion of the young Helsing as well. I liked the little twist about Fagin’s storyline (and the epilogue bits about him), and thought Mr. Fang was rather diabolical, if not too far-reaching.
In the end, I couldn’t help but snort at the Drina-Dodger pairing development and the really didn’t see the point, considering nothing really ever amounted to it. The Bram-Dodger relationship was probably more interesting to see, since the two practically played off each other for the majority of the story, and it was always fun to see the next thing they would do to save the day–or kill some vampires.
3 out of 5 Goodreads stars!