After very much enjoying several of Philip Pullman’s other books (His Dark Materials and companion books, The Firework Maker’s Daughter and The Scarecrow and His Servant), I had high hopes for the Sally Lockhart Mysteries.
In the first book, The Ruby in the Smoke, we meet Sally who, at age 16, has been recently orphaned. She is curious to know more about the circumstances of her father’s death after receiving some ambiguous information. Sally has had a very nontraditional upbringing in 1872 Victorian London, so feels comfortable in asserting her independence to have the freedom she needs to investigate.
In theory, it sounds like exactly the type of book I would really like. No fantasy, but it touches on my two other favourite genres – historical fiction and mystery. As Sally makes friends, it even gets into the history of photography and stereoscopic photography, which made it more personally interesting to me as an amateur photographer. However, I still didn’t really connect with Sally’s character or the plot.
I am a bit confused about what age group Pullman was aiming for. The details about financial interests, politics and the opium trade were short history lessons and relevant to the plot, but I found many of the discussions about them quite boring. Perhaps the inability to skim the details since I was listening to an audiobook emphasized that too. I could understand things on an intellectual level, but just didn’t really care about it, even though I am someone who is generally interested in these things in real life. I’m not sure that a younger audience would stay interested.
Read the rest of my review at Loopy Ker’s Life.