The Oversight – Charlie Fletcher

About the Book

Only five still guard the borders between the worlds.
Only five hold back what waits on the other side. 

Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand.

When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight’s London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled – but the girl is a trap.

As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow.

This gothic fantasy from Charlie Fletcher (the Stoneheart trilogy) spins a tale of witch-hunters, supra-naturalists, mirror-walkers and magicians. Meet the Oversight, and remember: when they fall, so do we all.

464 pages (hardcover)
Published on May 6, 2014
Published by Orbit
Author’s webpage 

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

The Oversight took me a little while to get into it. I’m not sure if I wasn’t in the mood, or what, but for how much I enjoyed this book, I’m surprised by how much effort it took me to care at the beginning.

That sounds horrible, I know, but it’s the truth. Some books just rub me wrong for one reason or another, and there’s no real logic behind that. Usually I suspect that I just wasn’t in the right mood, as is the case here. However, once I got through the first few chapters, I realized I was being an idiot and just sat back and enjoyed this book for how incredible it really is.

The Oversight is one of those books that will keep you guessing. There’s a nearly flawless mixture of history and fantasy that really brought the world alive for me. In fact, the world building was staggeringly good, from the organizations, the factions, the people, the culture, the secrets, and the cities. The whole thing absolutely astounded me. It’s rare when I read a book that feels so realistic that I can actually picture something like that existing in the world I live and function in, and I cherish those books when it happens.

But here’s the thing, and this probably contributed to why I was sort of turned off at the start of the novel. Victorian England really isn’t my bag. I don’t dig that time period. The manners that so many people think are charming really annoy me. The way people have to say forty thousand words just to say “piss off” (because everyone needs to be so polite) crawls under my skin. However, once I got past my initial knee-jerk “I’m going to hate this setting” reaction, I realized that Fletcher really managed to make Victorian England seem a lot less, well, ridiculous. It’s real, and vibrant, raw and dirty, and it didn’t make me want to scream at people to just “SAY WHAT YOU MEAN TO SAY ALREADY!”

It isn’t only the world that Fletcher does so well, or the characters, but the whole plot itself is very well done. From the very start, it’s obvious that Fletcher isn’t going to reveal it all at once. Readers are thrust into a very dark, rather morally ambiguous situation, and Fletcher basically lets them figure it out for themselves from there. I really enjoyed that about the book. I didn’t know what The Oversight was at first, and I spent most of the book figuring it out. I didn’t understand the mystery that was unfolding, and I spent a good chunk of the book confused because I was trying to puzzle it out. There’s a difference between being confused about the plot because it doesn’t make sense, and being confused about a plot because the author is a genius and wants you to be confused about the plot. This is the second kind of confusion, and the fact that readers will be spending a lot of the book figuring so many things out on their own will keep them incredibly invested in what is unfolding, and the numerous “ah ha” and “Wait…. WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!” moments that much more rewarding.

You know what I’m talking about. I know you do.

The characters are incredibly individual, and while I might say that a lot in my reviews, there is a fairly tight cast here, and Fletcher has a way with really getting into his character’s minds. Everyone is flawed. Everyone has their own motives. There is a “good” and a “bad” side to the book, but the “good” people and the “bad” people are all varying shades of gray, and reside in numerous different likeability ranges. It is very diverse, which I found to be refreshing and helped keep me very engaged, and you really don’t understand the plot well enough to figure out who is on what side of what conflict until you’re pretty invested in the book (which I always appreciate).

The Oversight is deliciously dark, and very subtle. The magic is very well crafted, and the moral gray zone, along with the social, individual, and organizational complexities works so very well. This isn’t your regular Victorian England drama. This is a dark, nicely gothic tale, with a Neil Gaiman undertone that kept me glued to my chair for hours and hours. Fletcher has a unique voice, and a way with keeping his readers confused, but hooked enough to slowly savor the unfolding drama, and truly appreciate the perfectly paced revelations.

I struggled at the start. By the time I was done reading it, I was converted. Charlie Fletcher is a genius, and The Oversight is one of the strongest novels I’ve read all year.


5/5 stars



4 Responses

  • That cover is beautiful, too. I don’t read a tremendous amount of Victoriana. either, though.

  • I’ve put off picking up this one for a while, I haven’t seen many good reviews yet. But you definitely made this one sound great. I’ll bump it up on my to buy list!

  • I really enjoyed this book, too. The audio version is excellent.

  • Peggy :)

    **Victorian England really isn’t my bag. I don’t dig that time period. … scream at people to just “SAY WHAT YOU MEAN TO SAY ALREADY!”**

    It is SO nice to hear that I’m not the only one! 🙂

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