14 November 2015

Books: The Oversight By Charlie Fletcher (2014)

"Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side. Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand. When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight's London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled - but the girl is a trap. As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow."

The Oversight is author Charlie Fletcher’s first fantasy novel for adults (he’s had success in the Young Adult genre) is somewhat a mixed bag of plots we’ve all seen before (Jonathan Strange and Daniel O’Mally’s The Rook come to mind), with a huge emphasis on World Building, while trying to be a quirky and odd. It works, but not until towards the end. But before what we get is an author who is clearly giving us a great amount of detail for the production designer and the costume creator for what he hopes will be a movie adaptation of this trilogy. Then, of course, the other problem lies in a story that really seems to go nowhere. Fletcher spends a great amount of time info dumping us in the beginning, when the young girl named Lucy is released from her sack. Both Sara and Cook are trying to explain to Lucy what she is (a glint, someone who can touch, say a stone wall, and see the history of events that surrounded it), and at times I felt Fletcher was dolling this information for himself, almost trying to convince himself that adults are too dumb to figure out his story. Then Lucy falls through a magical mirror and arrives some miles (hundreds?) from where she started into the hands of circus folks (where one of the heroes, apparently, is named Charlie. Most authors avoid using their own names in novels, mostly because it seems self-indulgent. Here it's ludicrous). For over 400 pages we get very little action, very little in the way of characterization, and some doggy subplot dealing with magicians from the north and south of Britain. Dull and pointless. It's sometimes quirky, and sometimes odd, but all the parts don't move well together to establish a coherent narrative that made you really care about anyone. The only intriguing character is the breath-stealer named Alp. But even he, it, or whatever it truly is, seems like it belongs in a different genre.

Still, there are, though some mysteries which, depending on your point of view if that is either good or really bad: mainly who really is the bad guys here. I mean, yes, there appears to be really bad people here, but I’m confused as to whom to root for, mostly because the everyone in magical alternate 18th Century England seems a bit the same. Yes, the Oversight are clearly the good guys, but the gray areas of others, their motivations, was a muddy as the Thames river here. 

Part of me does not want to continue, as the second book is on order at the library. But I’m hopeful that the second book offers a better story, with some explanations that don’t come across as artificial.

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