The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a fast-paced, interesting historical fiction for young adults. It had some pretty adult themes, but nothing graphic. It was really interesting to me, especially all the parts about the opium trade and how England endorsed it and legally sanctioned the opium growers of India. Unfortunately, I'm not sure many young adults would be interested in the subject, so I don't think this book was very popular (at least not in America). However, it was well worth reading. It's full of action, mystery, and plenty of educational stuff. Now I want to read two things: the next book in the series, and more historical fiction about the British/Indian opium trade.
This is not a light, fluffy read, despite the action and themes (mystery, murder, stolen treasure, a giant ruby, pirates, orphans, curses, oh my!) It has a dark atmosphere, but not gloomy. And besides the action and suspense, the characters are wonderful and lovable. Not quite as much as in His Dark Materials, but wonderful nonetheless. I like how Pullman writes strong female characters at the center of his novels, and surrounds them with a memorable cast of men. In this book, both the heroine and the villain are female, both of them striking and wonderful. And all the supporting characters are quirky, but not too quirky. Realistically rendered and delightfully deviant.
I'd recommend this book to intelligent young adults and adults.
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