Book Review: The Oversight

The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher, Oversight Trilogy #1

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.  

There are a lot of books coming out currently that are being compared to some of the great names that really put fantasy on the map. The Oversight, Charlie Fletcher's first adult oriented fantasy book was compared to Neil Gaiman. I have been a huge fan of his works and only roused my curiosity even more. If you read through the synopsis of the book it really has some cool idea's. Charlie Fletcher is well known for his Young-Adult fantasy series Stoneheart Trilogy, which is also set in an urban fantasy inspired London. With The Oversight he has produced one powerful and utterly engrossing entry in the gothic inspired urban fantasy, all the idea's that are broached in the synopsis fully come to life and create one heck of an experience. Orbit had a great hit with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and with The Oversight they have gotten onto a winner once again. 

One thing that readily falls to note about The Oversight is the whole ambiance and atmosphere that Charlie Fletcher wants to show. From the first page into the story I really got the feeling that I was present in the Victorian-inspired London. There isn't the mentioning of a definity year in which the story takes place, which does allow you to dream away into this world. It definitely has a lot of historical influences and from these, a certain Victorian style does come closest to explain the whole setting. Charlie Fletcher has created a very engrossing world in The Oversight, that completely comes alive, next to the heavy gothic influences that you perceive from the dark corners and alleys of London there is also a certain slight bizzaro-grotesque feeling towards the whole carnival/fair part of the book. I was and still am very impressed with the world that I was presented in The Oversight. Once I was immersed into the story, you don't want to put it down, for anything. World building is top notch stuff.

The story of The Oversight starts of first with an explanation of the natural and the supranatural (no not a typing error of the supernatural, it really is called the supranatural in The Oversight). After this you get a pretty eery prologue to the story, and as I mentioned above the directly helped set the dark mood just straight for the story. Soon afterwards we get the introduction to several of the protagonists of the story, the five individuals that make up The Oversight. There isn't really one main protagonist of the story that you follow throughout the book, but the above mentioned five perspectives. Normally you see that the main protagonist of the story readily pulls it forward, but no worries for the lack on that department as each of the five characters and their perspectives offers a refreshing story telling point. Ok back to the storyline. An young screaming girl called Lucy is dropped on the footsteps of the Oversights headquarters in London, it's up to them to find out what to do with her. The first one of the Oversight who tries to see if she could be the next recruit is Sara, the head of the Hand of the Oversight. Sara sees in Lucy many of her own virtues and vices and swears to protect her no matter the cost. However Lucy's arrival raises some questions to some of the other members and in particular the bodyguard to Sara, Mr. Sharp. And soon his mistrust proves to be true as something terrible happens that cripples the Oversight. Some people are out on the total destruction of the Oversight... but you know when you use a someone as a pawn who doesn't know anything, things can turn into the wrong direction than was planned... Because Lucy winds up in a completely "out of this world", she has to find her spot amongst the people of a traveling supranatural carnival that has a history of it's own. This short description doesn't come close to justify all that happens more in the story, but else it would be just to much to write down and would totally spoil the twists and turns that are hidden behind the darkest corners of this story. Really, the storyline that Charlie Fletcher starts in The Oversight will grip you from start to finish. 

So for the perspectives, first up are the five people that make up the last Hand of the Oversight: Sara, Mr. Sharp, Smith, Cook and Hodge. Each of the last remaining members has their own special abilities and of course their own personality. Sara is the leader of the Oversight and is by her nature strong, determined and puts herself in the line of danger when it helps others, also perhaps more of a character flaw, she does always try to see the best in people and this naivety got her into some troubles... Mr. Sharp's personality is somewhat linked to his name, he is a sharp character, he carries a sharp mind and a sharp blade, his job is to act as a the protector and bodyguard and bit of assassin for the Oversight, I am always a fan of these types of characters and found that his perspective added a lot of extra flavor to the whole atmosphere that Charlie Fletcher tried to embody in his story. Smith is one of the perspectives that you get to learn somewhat later on, Smith as the name implies, is the smith of the Oversight he created the weapons and the special rings of the order, he is called into action to identify the ring that Lucy has brought with her and determine just who wore it before her. Smith remains one of the enigmatic characters, you get to learn some of the details about him but a lot remains to be discovered. Cook, again as the name implies, she is the matron all caring mother of the hand who keeps them together with her fine treats. Even though Sara is the leader of the Hand, the influence of Cook is not to be missed and readily adds a homely, good feeling to everything. Last up but definitely not least is Hodge, he actually has a pretty cool ability, though it is shown in other urban fantasy stories, he is able to commune directly with the animals that roams to streets and the sky of London and use them for scouting purposes. Though Hodge is part of the Hand he is best viewed as the lone wolf of the bunch, only joining the other members when things get dire and his attention is required. 

Now these are only the characters of the Oversight, there are plenty more. Because besides these you also have the perspectives of Lucy, the girl that is send to bring down destruction to the Oversight and the enigmatic character Charlie Pyefinch a young boy that Lucy meets up with in the carnival. Though Lucy didn't have much to say in the beginning of the story, as soon as she is on her own two feet in the carnival, her character really comes to blossom mainly due to the interactions with the other people of the carnival but it helps her develop as a whole. One thing that I always mention when there are bad guys in the story is that I love to see their thoughts, how they act and plot their plans. It somehow gives away a much more solid feeling of the story. And this is exactly what you get in The Oversight, in the forms of the Templebanes. Zebulon and Issachar Templebane are plotting the downfall of the Oversight and in order to achieve this they pull out every trick they can. They have their own army of nasty creatures and have also called in the help of other eerie creatures that go by the names of the Slaugh... As you can see there are many different perspectives that you get to read all throughout the story each of the characters is completely different and stand out from the others, Charlie Fletcher has brought some very cool idea's to life in his character cast. 

I have been going on and on about the Oversight but haven't really explained just what their task is, so for the ones who are still curious. The Oversight is an ancient organization that governs the lines between the natural and the supranatural, the real and what the common folk will state as the "unreal". The Oversight is needed as supranatural threats walk the earth a plenty. However at one point they were numerous, within the hundreds, but in the last years there nummers have been decimated to only one hand full, five to be exact. Each of the members of the Oversight have some kind of magical ability that helps them to police between the natural and supranatural. Now you might say, been their down that, but I dare to disagree as the concept that Charlie Fletcher uses and everything that he involves into his story is truly one-of-a-kind. 

The setting and the world of the story is mysterious, mythical and quite spooky and Charlie Fletcher does the same with the magic system he introduces in The Oversight. The magical abilities of the last remaining five are explained in detail but aren't the main focus of the story, instead they are introduced into the background of the story and you never know just when one of those powerful magic will be unleashed. The magical powers that they have isn't in the lines of flashy elemental magic but more of the subtle kind aiding them and getting the best out of their natural abilities. Also by weaving it into the background it really helps to bolster the whole dark gothic atmosphere of the The Oversight

I think you can pretty much make up that I thoroughly enjoyed The Oversight, Charlie Fletcher has created a very solid entry withing the Urban Fantasy genre, one that will knock some books of their pedestals. I haven't read Charlie Fletcher's Young Adult series so I can't draw a comparison on that front, but the writing that he shows in The Oversight is engrossing to say the least, from the first page you will be sucked into the story and he just won't let you go to take a break, it's highly addictive. The strong narration combined with the engrossing world and intriguing characters definitely make The Oversight a winner for me. If you are still looking for a vacation read be sure to pack this one in your bag. Charlie Fletcher leaves the story of The Oversight on an interesting premise, we have seen some of the necessary details of the many different characters, but a lot of questions have been raised. The Oversight is a solid foundation, one that Charlie Fletcher can readily use to write a sequel, can't wait to dive into it.    


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