Tuesday 6 May 2014

Book Review: The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher

Pros: highly descriptive writing, lots of interesting characters, complicated plots, cool monsters, decent world building

Cons: several info dump chapters in a row

When a tied up girl is ’sold’ to ‘the jew’ of London’s Wellclose Square, several plots are set into motion.  Because that’s the safe house of the last remaining hand of the Oversight, a group of people with supranatural abilities who keep the ordinary people of England safe from the creatures that go bump in the night. 

There’s a large cast of characters, but the author’s attention to detail makes it easy to remember who’s who.  And the various protagonists and antagonists are all distinct enough to keep them separate along with their varied plots, worries and actions.  I loved that there’s a mixture of rich, poor, beautiful, horrible people, able-bodied and not, in the book.  There are several female characters in major roles, allowing for a large variety here too, in terms of temperament and actions.

The descriptive writing does make the opening a bit slow but it really helps to ground you for when the plots start to multiply.  Indeed, the necessity of paying close attention for the first few chapters pays off as the book continues, as it becomes very easy to remember what’s happening to whom, and where.

I loved the monsters in the book, the Slaugh and the Alp.  Both were suitably horrifying, as befit faery-style creatures.

There’s a lot of information you need to know in order to understand this alternate Victorian England.  Unfortunately, this required several information dumps.  While the author tried to vary these by working them into different conversations, the fact that these take place one after the other in successive chapters makes them feel contrived.  The first one especially felt contrived, as it has a member of the Oversight explaining what the organization is to one of the creatures it oversees, a creature who should (and you discover does) already know what the Oversight is.  Some of the other conversations would have sounded natural, had there not been so many other info dumps around them.  

The ending is good, with several plot points being tied up while others are left open for the forthcoming sequels.

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