Fascinating characters and an exciting - and surprising! - plot, and splendidly narrated, too. A joy to listen to, I just couldn't stop.
One of the best audiobook readings I've experienced - brilliant dialects and voices. And a good sense of timing, brining out Pullman's very own brand of Victorian humour.
I have absolutely no idea how one reviewer thought this was preachy. I hate preachy and there are some reviews I've been meaning to write complaining about preachy mysteries. The accounts of opium addiction are accurate for the time, feel and perspective of Victorian London. (a favorite time period of mine as so many authors i love wrote then plus the history is fascinating. Not that this stives to historical exactitude but rather a good tale with neat historical tid bits left in) You can't write anything good about opium dens, they were really seedy & depressing. The subject isn't Harped on at all but is important to the plot, though not so much for its use.
Anyway, this book is a fantastic mystery/thriller. I did not find the narrator to use a thick accent but listen to the sample just in case. Really great narrator, he added so much to the feel of the book & characters.
The story is a little dark, so I would not say for all ages. Adults will certainly enjoy this as much as adolescents but might not be the perfect fit for more suggestive children who have nightmares. I have a teenage niece who this would be too dark for. There's a lot of death and some drugs, maybe a little corse language but it's not bad. Honestly, the book is what the best of adolescent or young adult fiction is, able to stand on it's own as simply good fiction.
It really is a audio page turner and filled with great characters so do take a listen. After hearing this I might even retry the golden compas series's even though I hated it When it came out (I was maybe 13?). I'm certainly finishing the series.
Tip o' the hat to both the marvelous Philip Pullman AND to the excellent narrator, Anton Lesser. I was originally given this book when I was in middle school--to young, I think. And today, as an 8th grade teacher, I would hesitate to hand it to any but my high-level students, though I give out copies of "Golden Compass" all the time. The complexity of the story and barrage of colorful characters confuse younger readers. However, the riches the story offers--in character, in intrigue, in exciting Victorianishness--are well worth it. The audio version, complete with Cockney accents and such, is the perfect way to experience it. (Oh, also, AFTER you've listened to the book, enjoy the BBC film adaptations!)
Pullman in dark, playful mood skilfully avoids the predictable in this highly entertaining, no-punches-pulled thriller set in murkiest Victorian London. Anton Lesser's brilliant vocal characterisations evoke a world where the stench of opium dens and East End poverty is matched only by the putrid odour of institutionalised corruption. The Good Guys, led by plucky teenage orphan Sally Lockhart, are charming, brave and kind. The Bad Guys, headed by the stop-at-nothing slum-dwelling Mrs Holland, a truly chilling monster, are jaw-droppingly (and satisfyingly) capital-E Evil. Fu Manchu meets Sherlock Holmes and even Richard Hannay - only with a cast of refreshingly strong female characters - as looming cliches are brilliantly converted into vivid plot-twists. Pullman subtly exposes the vile creatures lurking beneath one of the foundation stones of British imperial power - the officially sanctioned Opium Trade - while keeping us spellbound with a first-rate gem of a tale of villainy eventually overcome by virtue. Why, there are even pirates! Great to know there are two more in the series...
While the story line itself is a good one, I found this audio grating on my nerves as I listened. The sound quality is as if spoken through an old phone and I did not enjoy the narration. I would recommend this in tangible - paperback or hardback or movie form only.
What a fun listen this was. I recommend the whole series. Anton Lesser is a fabulous narrator. He does all of the different characters so convincingly.
although i really loved pullman's 'the golden compass' series, this book failed to entice me. it seemed like the entire 'ruby in the smoke' book was based on the recurring theme that opium was/is bad. it was like he was trying to preach to his readers. i hated it.