Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Vigilante justice comes to the 19th century is in this edgy novel by Adrian Winney!
The book follows the titular Tosher, a disabled boy who was abandoned in a London sewer by his parents only to be raised by an ex-soldier/mercenary named Jack Tanner, often just called “Da” (probably short for dad). Jack, acting as a father, raises Tosher to use his head and to think past and around his missing leg. Due to this upbringing, Tosher grows up to be a incredibly ingenious boy who is able to figure out advanced problems, make contraptions, and even improve on cutting edge technology like revolvers and shotguns.
In a sense, he's kinda a mix between Batman, Iron Man, a Ninja Turtle, Edmund Dantes, and the Phantom of the Opera. He's an orphaned kid with a chip on his shoulder raised by a grizzly old wise guy to create weapons and traps to defeat unscrupulous foes. He's like a Ninja Turtle while not being, well, a turtle.
Going with that, Jack/Da is a lot like Master Splinter, Alfred, or the priest from Count of Monte Cristo. He was arguably our favorite character in the book as he demonstrated so much love and care for this little boy who he could've easily passed over as someone else's problem. No, he's not perfect, and he does have a dark side, but Jack is mostly a good man in some very dark and dangerous scenarios.
SPOILER AHEAD! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
Unfortunately (and this is kinda a spoiler but kinda not since it happens so early on, but BE WARNED), Jack doesn't make it very far in this book. It is one of the most frustrating things about it, actually, similar to the death of Joel in The Last of Us Part II. Why would you set up this awesome character who has so much more butt to kick only to kill him off less than a quarter of the way through? Well, if the author's intention was to make it tragic and to anger us enough into wanting vengeance, then they succeeded.
The problem is that as cool, capable, cunning, and interesting as Tosher is, can he really carry this entire plot on his shoulders? Yes and no. Yes, he can because he's cool, capable, cunning, and interesting. But no, he would've likely been better off playing off of Jack. Without Jack, Tosher is like Shaquill Griffin without Shaquem Griffin. He's like Bubba Ray Dudley without Devon Dudley. It's like Bo Duke without Luke Duke or Lamont Sanford without Fred Sanford or Officer Jon from CHIPs without Erik Estrada. And we all know CHIPs would've sucked without Erik Estrada.
The dynamic duo is disrupted.
Yes, it can work, but should it? Does it have to?
It's almost exactly like The Last of Us Part II in that this tragic death of a father figure is intended to trigger a very strong emotional reaction, however it also makes us feel a bit cheated.
But we digress. It does work for dramatic effect and as the catalyst to the main plot in which Tosher predictably seeks revenge. The thing about this also is that Tosher seems to become a worse person as a result of Jack's death. Yes, he still tries to draw from Da's wisdom, but he mostly just becomes very mean and angry. Well, do you blame him? There are times in here in which he just outright murders in cold blood. Yeah, this isn't Batman or a Ninja Turtle anymore, this almost becomes the origin story of a mad genius serial-killer or a mass-shooter. He abducts and tortures people, albeit people who likely deserve some comeuppance. But he also threatens their family members who've done nothing wrong as far as we know. Yes, he feels bad about it later and it's questionable if he'd actually follow through with his threats, but it's still something he does.
He legitimately goes into shops asking how he can make his guns more efficient at killing people. On one hand, it's hard to blame him, and the other hand, well... do we really want to cheer for this kid anymore? How far is too far?
If you enjoy books about dark ingenious antiheroes, you can check this out on Amazon!