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The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman


This was a fun, quick read. The story was kind of an adventure mystery story revolving around a teenaged girl named Sally Lockhart and her mysterious past. Unfortunately, I had already seen the very faithful Masterpiece Theatre version (with Billie Piper) before I read the book, which ruined the plot twists for me. The movie even featured one of the most memorable lines from the first page of the story: “Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man.” It’s such a great line that I think Pullman should have made this the first in the book (and if I remember correctly, it was the first line in the movie). I wasn’t a Philip Pullman fan before reading this book–I did not like His Dark Materials at all–but Sally Lockhart is so much more likable than Lyra that I have changed my mind about Pullman and am considering re-reading that other series to see if I might like it better the second time. Both main characters are kind of similar in their spunky, hard-edge personalities and in their daddy/mommy issues, but Sally seems so much more likable to me. And in this novel, Pullman’s hands-off all-knowing narrator approach that was so difficult for me to read in his other series somehow feels fresh and different; it showcases the often ridiculous nature of Victorian society in an engagingly funny way. Even that line above is humorous and silly in an overly serious kind of way. Or take that other great line I previously blogged about. Hilarious.

This wasn’t the best novel ever (for example, having Sally breathe in opium as part of the story line seemed a strange choice) but it was definitely enjoyable.

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