We recently had an author guest post by Matthew Wainwright about his experiences of being a debut author (Read Here). Unfortunately, having his book published in the midst of a global pandemic (October 2020) has not been ideal. However, after reading the guest post, I really wanted to read this book as it covers a setting that I'm very fond of. I did have my reservations regarding the editorial side of the book with it being published by a very small publisher (Wakeman Trust). However, my concerns were unnecessary as the narrative runs as freely as the River Thames and has been very well edited. The book cover is amazing and I think it might have been produced by the author himself. I'm really pleased to able to get behind this fantastic book and give it a massive thumbs up.
This is a Young Adult book that introduces a host of characters that will melt the reader's heart. It's a story set in Victorian London that shows the harsh realities of that era. The plot is gripping as it delves into the working and living conditions of a group of chimney sweeps (or soot monkeys) as they were known. These boys could be as young as 4 years old! Billy is one of the main characters you follow as you plunge into the criminal underworld of Victorian London. Unfortunately, he clashes with the notorious gang leader (Archie Miller) who is a very bad man as he believes that gangland life is the best place for an education.
This is a fully immersive and fantastically told story with historical detail that makes the book shine with reality and realism. It was a real treat to get to know the characters and the bloody side of the gangland culture (a way of living) that was so prevalent at this time. It magically weaves a plot of faith (from a Christian standpoint) but is not overly used, in my opinion. There is just enough of a driving force to show the strong feelings of religion at that time. I really liked the introduction of the British politician and social reformer the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. When the 'Poor Man's Earl' offers Billy a chance to exchange his gangland life for an education, he must decide what to do. What would you do in this situation? I thought it was very well thought out and researched; it certainly encompassed the narrative very well.
This story was a glorious read. I would love for more people to read this book and, by doing so, to support the author and small publishing company. Whilst it's a sad, heartfelt, and sorrowful story, it is still full of hope, courage, and fighting spirit. If you want to know more about Billy, Tosher, and Clara and follow their plight, then please pick up a copy from your local bookshop. This is a heartfelt story for all ages. It's one that you will reflect upon and take to your beating hearts.