With full marks going to author, Michael-Israel Jarvis, for the highly compelling title of this, the first in a series of urban fantasy YA novels set in the dark and twisted world of this alternative version of 19th century England. A world very much set in the tradition of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere or Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners, Jarvis treats us to a trip deep into the twisted underworld where the laws both of the land and of science hold little sway.
Our protagonist is Edward, the boy murderer, a boy who takes his fate into his own hands in the opening chapter, earns his title, and is forced into the life of a criminal. Intelligent, calculating and yet awkwardly adolescent, Edward makes for a attractive and relatively down to earth lead for this story.
Osric Fingerbone, who is ostensibly our anti-hero, feared by the law and the underworld, is attractive and witty, but ultimately on the side of the angels. If I have a complaint about his character, it is that he never quite lives up to the reputation he is alleged to have had.
The story has a multitude of players, and twists and turns whilst our hapless protagonist stumbles blindly through a world about which he knows little. That world is vast and the story clearly sets us up for a series as we get a only the slightest taste for its potential: a brief explore under the city and its complex system of alliances and dangers; some time dabbling in the corruption of high society, politics and monarchy; a secret society of alchemists; and our band of Robin Hood-like misfits who’ve taken the law and morality into their own hands.
Occasionally it feels like there is too much. Elements of the story are sometimes set up and then seemingly forgotten and there are certainly a few times when I would have liked a slightly slower pace and a more considered exploration the current plot point, particularly when paired with the narrative’s continual jumping between different points of view. That said, it must be said that it gives you very little time to get bored; this is a fast paced, page turner of novel, that you really don’t want to put down.
All in all, Osric Fingerbone and the Boy Murderer is compelling read and leaves you wanting more. A very enjoyable read.
You can purchase it here.