I had greatly enjoyed the Oversight and knew The Paradox would be a good book. But even I was surprised to find myself just as riveted as with the first. Mythology and canon are greatly expanded, providing quite a few surprises and consistently delivering unexpected twists and turns. But this book has a beating heart at the center – well drawn, nuanced, flawed, but remarkable characters who are fascinating to follow.
Author Fletcher’s writing is so tight, rich, and engrossing that upon finishing this second book in the Oversight series, I had a hard time reading other books afterwards. The difference in writing chops was just too apparent with otherwise good books. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and certainly I greatly look forward to the third book.
Story: With the Oversight veering ever closer to extinction, there are those who question whether the organization is too far compromised toward the humans to even be useful any more. Sarah and Mr. Sharp are trapped in the mirrors, the Smith has secrets of his own, Hodge is blinded, and Cook is trying to keep them all together. And while Charlie blindly trusts, Lucy is suspicious of them all. Enter a lost boy who can communicate in his mind with others, souls lost within the mirrors hindering Sarah and Mr. Sharp, a cocky Irish lass who hunts the supernatural, and a minion who may just have the perfect plan to finally destroy the Oversight. The supernatural elements may have the perfect storm to claim Dickensian London for their own.
I have never been a fan of multiple POVs – I can respect an author who can bring them all together in the end but I am usually frustrated for most of the book until I get there. But Fletcher’s precise writing keeps the POVs tight and concise – they don’t drag and they naturally push or pull the character right into the main plot neatly. It’s the mark of an excellent writer than I was never frustrated when one POV ended and another began. Each change was at an appropriate place and without the usual nagging cliffhangers. But more importantly, it was obvious while reading why the characters were important to the main plot – no one felt random and waiting to become important at the end.
I had worried that the mirror scenes would drag and be too surreal to be interesting. What a surprise, then, that those scenes were among the most interesting in the book. The situations that Sarah and Sharp encounter are distinct, unique, and completely unexpected. As well, their mirror travels mark important worldbuilding and plot points that further the mystery while also answering important questions from the first book.
Yes, the Paradox continues to be very dark – perhaps even dreary. As fitting the London of that era, the supernatural elements are seamlessly bound to the world and feel as organic as the smokestacks and railroad tracks. The entire series feels very real in that regard – the characters are nuanced and entirely believable in their foibles, weaknesses, and of course abilities and strengths. There are no mustache-twirling evil baddies, insipid romantic cliches, or over reliance on the supernatural to get characters out of (or into) trouble. Decisions are made based upon logic and experience – not deus ex machina plotting.
If the Paradox suffers on one account, it is that this is very much a bridge book. There are definitive arcs that finish here, several echoing the events of the first book. But where this book really excels is the riveting depth of the world explored and expanded upon – and of course the pervasive sense that the Oversight are in for one very nasty battle of survival in the final book.