(2017) Charlie Fletcher, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, xii + 419pp, ISBN 978-0-356-52096-0
The third and final part of Fletcher’s Victorian urban fantasy trilogy concerning the Oversight of London who have been sworn for millennia to prevent the natural and the supernatural worlds from preying on each other. Most of their number were lost in the Great Fire of London and the Napoleonic Wars, and at the start of the trilogy only five of their number – called a 'Hand' – remained, but were under attack from the evil Templebane twins and in the background, the even more nasty creatures known as the Slaugh who are seeking the key to the dark side of the universe. Now, at its lowest ebb with its HQ destroyed, the last members are scattered and must face the harshest foe it has ever met; itself...
It started with The Oversight, it continued in The Paradox and now it ends (sort of) with The Remnant, which consists of 55 chapters and an epilogue, so like the two previous books you know you are in for a fast-paced treat, but before we get to the action we get a Dramatis Personae which lists a heck of a lot of personae, split into different factions of where they hail from, thus we have categories such as '[The members of] The Oversight', 'In London', 'In the Countryside and then London' followed by various factions, and characters in places like Paris, or the Hebrides, even Rutlandshire, but there are also characters not of this world in places such as 'Between the Worlds' or 'Beyond Law and Lore'. One of Fletcher’s strengths has been his characterisation with names to match so we get characters like 'The Citizen – a sea-green, incorruptible, thought dead', 'Docras – a housemaid, accidentally beautiful, and purposefully no coward', and 'Sister Lonnegan – owner of an unbridled tongue'.
The Oversight is split into four parts, each starting with an 'On the…./ Section, so part one starts with a lesson, like 'On the Uncertain Mechanick of the Mirror’d World and its Illusory Potential' and similar lessons are delivered throughout. This is book three of a trilogy so my advice for any reader is do not start here. There is far-too much going on with a whole host of characters in London, the Scottish Herbrides and in parts of the world, like America and their version of the Oversight, to really follow events, especially since book two had the middle-bookitis thing going on by generating a whole lot of strands of subplots and cliff-hangers to keep the reader’s interest up for book three. Thus we have various nefarious creatures working alone or in partnership with others to find and control the magical source known as the Wildfire, either for their own ends or to create mayhem in this world and many other parallel worlds, while beside these plot strands several characters are on the road to redemption or damnation or just out to enjoy a good unhealthy dose of revenge by taking it out on someone, or some thing else.
While The Remnant is great fun, and a ripping yarn, the members of 'The Oversight' do get sidetracked from time to time because of all the action and the wide variety of characters that feature throughout, and while Fletcher’s warped Dickensian trilogy has come to an end, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a fourth book up his magician’s sleeves, or at least a spin-off series or two since the world, and the characters he had created are too good to just gather dust.
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