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The Ruby In The Smoke by Philip Pullman (thoughts)

January 18, 2012

From the author’s website:
‘Have you ever heard the phrase The Seven Blessings?’ 
That question causes a man to die of shock, and propels Sally Lockhart into a desperate adventure that will expose the deepest secrets of the corrupt and murderous opium trade.  

You read that quick summary, and you’d expect that this would be a pretty thrilling book. And at only 200 pages, it’s got to be action packed, right? Sadly, very sadly, no. At least not for me. Or for any of the members of my book club. In fact, the only reason I finished it (and it was a struggle to do so) was so that I’d have it read in time for book club.

Before I get too far into the disapointing-ness of this book, I will say that it started off well enough. Include this sentence in the first paragraph of your book, and I am going to be intrigued: Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man. Yes! More of that, please. The Seven Blessings are introduced, abounding in mystery, and I was starting to kick myself for not buying this book when I had the chance. And then, somehow, it all fell apart.

One of the biggest downfalls for me was Sally herself. For the first part of the book I had to keep reminding myself that Sally was 16. She seemed so much younger, at least 12 maybe, even younger. I’m not sure if Pullman had written her simpler/younger because he was writing for a younger audience or if she had been too sheltered to act her own age, or what. And so, while she’s supposed to be all fierce and independent, and yes, she was independent, she seemed more naive than fierce. Although, there were a couple parts where Sally totally showed off her brains, and it was awesome. But then, while in hiding with another young fugitive, she sees nothing wrong with both of them posing in photos – that will be sold to the public, and how was that not the reason they were found?? And it was even her idea! I am having a really hard time letting that part go. I just don’t get it.

Skipping all the way to the end (and the multitude of ‘important’ characters that are randomly introduced and half heartedly developed), the other downfall for me was the *SPOILER* Big Reveal re: Sally’s parentage. *END SPOILER* I generally really like when something like that is revealed and I’m all ‘Woah! Where did that come from?!’ But usually you’re working through everything with the character and there are clues that make sense once the secret is revealed. But with this one? I really have no idea how Sally came to the conclusion that she did. Did I miss something? Had an important page been ripped out of my library copy?

I know lots of people love this series, but it’s just not one for me.

Ending on a positive note – I do still really want to see the made for tv movie adaptation of The Ruby in the Smoke, starring Billie Piper & Matt Smith. I know!

My rating: 5/10

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 4:18 am

    Yes! Yes, yes, yes, support. I was bored to tears by this one and could not figure out how it even got published, much less how it got so much buzz.

  2. January 19, 2012 4:45 am

    I remember mildly enjoying this book, but it probably means something that I didn’t carry on with the series. Definitely not Pullman at his best.

  3. January 19, 2012 4:45 am

    Sorry you weren’t a fan of this book!

  4. January 19, 2012 6:47 am

    That’s too bad. I loved His Dark Materials but I haven’t read his other stuff. I think I’d take a pass on this one too.

  5. January 19, 2012 6:47 am

    I thought this would be exciting too! That’s why I picked it up. But it ended up being SO boring. I had to quit reading. Glad I’m not the only one who felt this way.

  6. January 22, 2012 7:08 pm

    Bummer that you didn’t love this one :( I don’t enjoy when I read about a character that is supposedly a particular age, but acts a completely different age.

  7. talesofwhimsy permalink
    June 16, 2012 8:20 am

    I’m still thinking I want to try it. But I’m gonna give the audio a go.

    Film version? FAB! After the book.

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