Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

I recommend this book for: grade 7 and up

Before there was Lyra, there was Sally Lockhart. I picked this up thinking, "Victorian mystery? Feisty heroine? What's not to like?" And I'm rather pleased with this one, overall.

Sally Lockhart is the 16 year old daughter of a recently deceased merchant. Within the first couple of pages she accidentally kills a man with a few words - "the seven blessings." What does the message mean, and who sent it to her after her father's death at sea? As she investigates she learns that her father was murdered and that, somehow, a ruby famous for causing destruction is her inheritance - if she can find it before the others who want it do. A fun mystery and adventure in the underbelly of London, complete with street children, opium addicts, betrayal, and yes, a bit of romance.

But don't take my word for it . . .

*This is a very clean read - sex mentioned only obliquely, only a few instances of profanity, and for those Golden Compass-haters out there, no portrayal of religion** - but opium is a huge presence in the novel. Although the effects of the drug are clearly portrayed (a few characters are completely ruined as a result of their addiction, and realistically so), there is also an important plot point that hinges on Sally having an opium dream. She uses it only once, and fearfully, but it is portrayed as the only way for her to get a crucial answer to one of her questions. Just thought you might like to know!

** See the next post for my rant about the His Dark Materials controversy - it became longer than my original post, so I decided to make it a separate post.

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