The Dream Thief (Horatio Lyle) by Catherine Webb

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The Dream Thief (Horatio Lyle) by Catherine Webb

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann
Reviewed by Stefan Bachmann
Summary: It feels a bit fluffy for a teen mystery, especially one set in Industrial Revolution London, but once you get used to the quirky tone it's fast-paced and enjoyable to the end.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Atom
ISBN: 978-1905654253

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When an orphan girl appears on Horatio Lyle's doorstep, half-dead and apparently poisoned, the genius inventor finds himself drawn into a conspiracy that reaches to the highest circles of London Society. Someone is kidnapping workhouse children and essentially turning them into zombies. Somone is stealing their dreams. With the help of his young ward, the street-urchin Tess, he sets out into the darkest parts of the city to stop them.

That's pretty much what the back cover tells us. Definitely nothing about humour or eccentric characters, even though those are really the main attraction of the book. The cover and blurb had me expecting a creepy historical fantasy, something in the vein of the Barnaby Grimes series by Paul Stewart, but it's nowhere near that straight-forward. The writing is so persistently light and bubbly, that it leaves little room for much tension let alone any creepiness. If the book description hooks you, ignore it and search out an excerpt somewhere. If you like that, chances are you'll love this book.

The prose definitely took me a few chapters to get used to. It's pretty gimicky, with different font types and sizes, lack of spaces to denote hurried speech etc, etc. I imagine it would be fun to read aloud, but then again it is a fairly violent, mildly foul-mouthed teen actioner, so it really has no chance of being read aloud.

Still, the plot moves along at a good clip, the characters start to grow on you towards the end, and there are definitely moments that make you smile. The humour does tend to pop up at awkward moments, like at the height of action sequences, but it's still one of the books main perks.

It should also be said that this is the fourth book in the Horatio Lyle series. It's not something that affects the reading experince at all, though, so don't worry about getting the books in order.

In the end I did enjoy the book. I was reasonably entertained. I just think it should have been presented in a way that made you expect what you got. Also, while I liked the characters and some of the dialogue and bits of the humour, I thought the writing tended to trip up the subject matter. Perhaps one to borrow rather than buy.

My thanks to Atom books for sending Bookbag a copy.

Further reading suggestion: The Story of Cirrus Flux is what this book looked like it was going to be. Dark, with vivid atmosphere, bits of steampunk, magic, and a good dose of historical detail. For the ultimate humorous Victorian fantasy check out Mothstorm by Philip Reeve.

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Buy The Dream Thief (Horatio Lyle) by Catherine Webb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dream Thief (Horatio Lyle) by Catherine Webb at


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