26. The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (1985) 207 p.

The title should never take up 80% of the cover

I like young adult fiction a lot. It’s a guilty pleasure. Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series are probably my favourite books of all time, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is also awesome. So I expected this earlier work of his to be quite good. It’s the average mystery/adventure novel featuring a young protagonist and the shennanigans she gets up to in “the murky streets and opium dens” of Old London after her father’s untimely death in the South China Sea.

While Pullman captures the (exaggerated) spirit of Victorian England quite well – with its grimy streets, Cockney urchins, fetid river slop and so forth – the story itself is unfortunately pretty mundane. Not precisely unputdownable. I suppose he was a much younger man when he wrote this, and was still learning the craft. Oh well. Marginal thumbs down.

Books: 26/50
Pages: 7782