R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 8/10
Disclaimer: I’m not a regular reader of Historical Fiction or YA Fiction, and I really don’t know much about life in Victorian London ’cause I’m an uninformed schmoe. But that did not hinder my enjoyment of this title in ANY way.
What I enjoyed most about OUT OF THE SMOKE was the easiness of it all. Wainwright’s writing is clean and clear enough for anyone to get into the story. Chapters are the perfect length too, so that once you finish one, you can easily convince yourself to read just one more. And then another. The tale of Billy the chimneysweep is less of an obvious, linear plot and more of a string of mini-adventures, where Billy makes a series of questionable choices on his way to finding where he really belongs (although most of Billy’s “questionable” choices were often the only choice he had).
Characters come and go quickly in this story, and at times I was frustrated by not knowing which ones I should latch onto, and which (turns out most of them) were just passing moments on the journey.
I appreciate the inclusion of the actual 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, as it helped ground the tale in reality, as well as giving me a bit more insight into history, but his character was in no way presented as too heavy of a learning tool. There is also a strong message at the end of the book, but not preachy.
There is some violence and mild gore, but I can easily recommend Out of the Smoke for any young reader (or reader of Young Adult fiction), especially one who enjoys adventure and historical stories.