Readers looking for an urban fantasy with a difference to sink their teeth into should investigate The Oversight, the first book in Charlie Fletcher’s new trilogy, which delivers a rich and beguiling world to get lost in.
Set in Dickensian London, the book opens with a man taking the gagged and screaming Lucy Harker to a man he hopes will pay him for his troubles, only to stumble upon a group of people sworn to protect the city from the dark supranatural forces that threaten it, and who naturally look down on people trying to sell amnesiac youths.
The Oversight is an ancient institution, currently reduced to just five members standing alone the creeping forces of evil. It’s not an entirely unfamiliar setting or story, but Fletcher has fleshed out the book’s world with impressive thoroughness, and not at expense to the story’s momentum.
The first half moves at a tremendous pace, with the bulk of it taking place over the space of a couple of days. The band of heroes mostly conform to type (stronger-than-she-looks leader, gentleman muscle, etc.) but they’re well written and fun to spend time with. There’s a great sense of shared history and camaraderie and the characters are certainly rich enough to warrant further exploration.
As likeable as the heroes are, there’s arguably more to the villains. There’s the deeply creepy elemental Sluagh, and Fletcher has a lot of fun playing with Dickensian archetypes with sinister lawyers the Templebanes and their biblically-named brood of adopted orphan heavies emerging from the all-enveloping London fog. The combination of science and magic is similarly rewarding and fits the time period beautifully.
Thanks to the detailed history of the Oversight, there’s plenty of scope for the world of the novel to be explored further. One or two diversions do feel a little like padding, especially as the second half spends a little too long with Lucy’s adventures with a travelling circus away from the central group.
However, despite occasionally getting lost in its own world, The Oversight is a highly entertaining fantasy that promises a trilogy worth sinking your teeth into.