Sawbones

Publisher: Walker Books

Review

In 18th century London, 16-year-old Ezra is working as apprentice to a highly respected surgeon, William McAdam. He knows that his impressive knowledge of anatomy and skill at the dissection table will ensure he has a trade for life. Yet whilst he is grateful to his master, who rescued him from a life of slavery, Ezra is eager for independence and to be his own man.

Then a strange series of events changes everything. Now, McAdam is dead, and Ezra is alone - except for the unconventional Miss Loveday Finch, daughter of a magician, who is looking for answers about her father's death. Soon, the pair find themselves tangled in an adventure featuring grave-robbing, body-switching and political intrigue, which takes them a journey across London from the Operating Theatre at St Bart's, to the vaults of Newgate Prison, to the shadowy Ottoman Embassy. 

This exciting mystery story has plenty of gore from its opening pages, and is sure to grab the attention of young readers who enjoy gripping crime thrillers. Yet Sawbones also offers much more than blood and guts: Catherine Johnson has penned a clever historical novel that provides a fascinating insight into an aspect of the 18th century, which is likely to be unfamiliar to many readers. The pragmatic, scientifically-minded Ezra and the wild, tempestuous Loveday perfectly capture two sides of 18th century thought - empiricism and romanticism - and Johnson clearly takes pleasure in subverting conventional stereotypes of race and gender. Both thought-provoking and accessible, this is an impressive historical adventure.

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