Artful by Peter David

Artful by Peter David
Published by 47North on July 1, 2014
Genres: Re-Telling, Young Adult
Pages: 278
Format: ARC
Source: Kindle First
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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 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.

With vampires.


Before I get into the crux of my review, I would like to say that it was tough coming up with an adequate star rating for the book. I think a target audience of young (ages 10-17) males would give it 4, or possibly even 5 stars. Young female readers might rate it at 3 or 4, while others reading more critically may peak at 3 stars. As such, I felt a strong 3 stars was a good compromise. Now, onto the review!

I am a big fan of Alternative History/Alternate Universe stories and retellings. The idea of magic and the preternatural having always coexisted beside the mundane and scientifically proven is one I hold dear to my heart. Make it a period piece, and you’ve definitely got me hooked! This particular genre niche is severely lacking in good material. The last really good book that exemplifies the genre would have to be Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” which is one of my favourites, despite its length and slow build. So, when I say I was excited to find and read Artful: A Novel, you’ll have to understand that I was excited not because it was an alternate, or companion, telling to Oliver Twist, but because it was a book that may actually fill the genre void.

Jack Dawkins, better known as The Artful Dodger, stars as the titular hero of the novel. He manages to escape his expulsion to Australia only to land himself in a royal conspiracy involving vampires and princesses. He meets a mysterious young woman, whom he nicknames Drina, and as we all know, once you name something, you’re attached. So it was in this case where Artful defends newly found Drina against a man believing her to be a prostitute, then against one of the prostitutes with whom he is on friendly terms. After all this rescuing, he bares his soul to the guarded young woman over a small home cooked meal. When she decides she would like Artful to take her on a tour of London, they discover a young man has been asking after Artful. They run off in search of him and are led on a journey through London streets, psychiatric asylums, and courts.

The premise is typical and the plot predictable. Characters fulfill their archetypal roles, never straying into murky waters. It’s a very safe read, which is why I would recommend it to young males, especially those who are a bit wary of reading. As enjoyable as it was, when reading it as a quick, simple, “popcorn” read, I cannot fully endorse it as a good read for young girls. The females we see in the novel are all in need of rescuing. They are also clearly separated into two categories – the “whores” which are undesirable, and the “virgins” which are the ones worthy of love and attention. That this is a book better geared for young males, rather than females, is made abundantly clear on the second page when the narrator comments on Oliver Twist’s tendency to cry/show emotion, “Whatever circumstance confronted him, his default reaction was to burst into tears, which makes him seem to us — not with the intention of disparaging the fairer sex, but still — a bit womanish.”

In all, it’s a fast and simple read that would greatly appeal to young male readers, but beware of recommending this book to girls.


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