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Literature / Oliver Twisted

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"Please sir, I want some GORE"

Oliver Twisted is a 2012 Young Adult Horror novel by J. D. Sharpe, which reimagines the Oliver Twist story in a more hellish setting.

Oliver is born into a sinister world where beings from Hell have escaped their infernal prison and integrated themselves amongst society. He decides to escape his grim orphan life and sets off to London when a corpse revealed he would find his destiny there. Oliver must pit his wits against a soul-stealer, werewolves and other evils hellbent to bend Oliver towards their corrupted will, but will he be the world's saviour or their damnation?

More information on the book can be found here.

Note: Spoilers which match the original story, as well as what's given off the book’s online description, are left unmarked.

Oliver Twisted provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The nurse stealing Oliver's mother's locket is mentioned, but nothing more of it is, and neither is anything involving Noah Claypole or the Sowerberrys after Oliver escapes from them.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Some significant characters receive fates different from the original story. Instead of being executed, Fagin successfully escapes with his band of thieving youngsters, including Charley Bates, who is originally allowed a Heel–Face Turn. While the Artful Dodger of the original story is caught for stealing, Dodge in this story sides with Oliver and lives with his family, and the two of them grow to be as close as brothers.
  • Adaptation Species Change: Bill Sikes and Fagin, both humans in the original novel, are a werewolf and a soul-eating demon respectfully. Bill's dog Bullseye is also made into a werewolf.
  • Adaptational Badass: After asking for more gruel, Oliver gets locked up. It similarly happens in this version - but not before he grabs the ladle on its way to strike his head, scoops himself some gruel, and successfully avoids the cook's assistants whilst announcing to the other starving orphans to fetch their share of additional gruel, sending them stampeding towards the cooks.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Dodge is less of The Artful Dodger in this story and more of the adept yet silently unwilling pickpocket. Dodge encourages Nancy that they should help Oliver when Fagin's plan goes too far, and he even splits from Fagin's gang and summons the Knights of Nostradamus to rescue Oliver, and the two of them become True Companions.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: While the original work allows Bumble a moment of his humanity to surface despite being a jerk, the beadle man isn't given that luxury in this tale. Bumble's vanity is amplified and he acts more cruelly to Oliver, occasionally striking him with his cane to make him behave.
  • Adapted Out: Among the characters absent in this adaptation are Monks, the Maylies and those introduced by their arc, as well as the magistrate and the chimneysweep, as that trial never happens.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: Otherwhere is the waiting station for souls who cannot rest. When Oliver is severely weak, he ends up in this place momentarily and usually sees his mother, whose identity is only confirmed to him near the end.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Fagin and Bill Sikes work together (half-willingly) with the mutual interest of being rewarded by the Brotherhood of Fenris, the more ultimate evil of the story.
  • Blood Knight: The Knights of Nostradamus are the wielders of good magic who take down malicious monsters, but the eagerness to fight is more evident in Brownlow suddenly subjugating Oliver into a duel to see what he's capable of.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Among the twisted changes that make this story more violent than the original include: vampyre higher-ups who feed on the harvested blood of children, close encounters with zombies, visions of gluttonous orphans feasting on each other, and the especially ludicrous death of Bill Sikes.
  • Captain Oblivious: Charley Bates is evidently clueless of keeping Fagin’s plans for Oliver under wraps when the latter arrives at Fagin’s den with Dodge. He complains about why they had to wait for a random boy while Fagin was supplying the impression that Oliver and Dodge met by chance.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Oliver comes to learn that his late parents were of two opposing factions. His father was a reformed warlock whilst his mother was the White Mage daughter of Brownlow.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Orphans in the workhouse are subjected to corruption so they can be sacrificed to the wolf god Fenris. Oliver is particularly resistant to the antagonists' efforts to corrupt him. Later in the story, Fagin mind rapes Oliver into seeing his greatest fears under the lie that he was seeing his true nature, to make him corrupt enough to offer to the Brotherhood.
  • Crapsack World: The story is set in the midst of the human world overrun by monsters from down below. It goes about as well as you’d expect, and some monsters appear to be as miserable as the humans do.
  • Creepy Mortician: Mr Sowerberry casually converses with Bumble about the funeral business and his workarounds in it, and he and his wife are keen on cutting off Oliver's tongue when he shows no signs of change under their care. To top it all off, they're implied to enjoy human meat.
  • Cyanide Pill: Oliver's mother drinks deadly dragon's blood in a vial to halt the effects of a woe-begotten bite from taking hold to not attack those nearby. In the midst of the agonizing transformation, she tells those present to take care of her new-born child before poisoning herself.
  • Dead Person Conversation: It is Oliver's conversation with a cadaver who speaks of a message from his deceased mother that gives him the idea to find his destiny in London.
  • Death By Child Birth: Disturbingly subverted with Oliver's mother. While apparently in agony after giving birth, it's because she got bitten by a woe-begotten not long before being taken into the workhouse. She poisons herself to stop the effects.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation:
    • Originally, Oliver's mother dies during labor. In this story, she dies in the same place after giving birth by swallowing deadly dragon's blood so as not to turn into a woe-begotten.
    • Bill Sikes, instead of dying from a rope jolting his neck in a fall, bursts into pieces after being temporarily possessed by Nancy's vengeful ghost.
  • Disappeared Dad: Oliver's father, Edwin Leeford, died prior to the book's events.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: Soothsayers foresee two different destinies for Oliver; to be the protector who would defeat the darkness once and for all - or become the greatest evil ever known.
  • Exact Words: When Fagin realises Oliver is awake and probably saw his ritual as a result (which he did), he demands to know if he wasn't awake an hour ago. Oliver says he wasn't, and gets away with it. This trope is further enforced by the spell on Oliver that doesn't allow him to lie.
  • Eye Colour Change: Oliver's eyes turn silver when harnessing "the Rage", which is the warlock magic inside him.
  • Eye Scream: Bullseye's backstory reveals that he was born blind, so his mother plucked an eyeball out of his infant brother Bill Sikes to sew it into the former's head. The other brother's eye was replaced with a Glass Eye.
  • Facial Horror: Bullseye’s face is scratched and torn in twenty different places.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What Fagin wishes to bestow on Brownlow instead of letting Sikes kill him right away. He describes how he wishes to make his life miserable by making everyone leave him and only stealing his soul once he's completely broken.
  • Geometric Magic: Good and bad magic appear to be differentiated through shapes. While Fagin's den has symbols of sharp angles and points, the intricate patterns in Brownlow's home are round, consisting of circles and spirals that flow into each other. The spell in which Oliver uses to grant the woe-begottens peace consists of forming two circles attached by an upwards thread with his hands.
  • Giving Them the Strip: Dodge slides out of his longcoat to escape Fagin's grasp and fetch him an appetiser so he wouldn't be one instead.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Toby Crackit is implied to be one since only his mother's species is mentioned, and he otherwise looks like a normal guy with a very big hump under the back of his jacket. He's half-swamp goblin and has inherited her tentacles.
    Toby: Comes in useful sometimes.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Dodge and Nancy, initially answering to Fagin and Sikes respectively, decide to help Oliver out of Fagin's evil plan once they see how horrid the situation is. They are described more as those who put up with vile circumstances while having some good inside that needed finding.
    • Following his Heel Realisation after he hears the news of Nancy's death, Toby Crackit decides to leave his criminal past as a house-breaker behind and becomes a content farmer in the country.
    • Edwin Leeford was one of the most fearsome warlocks, who were evil casters of magic responsible of horrendous crimes. However, he changed for the better and paired with a Knight of Nostradamus.
  • Hellgate: In Oliver's destiny, one of the outcomes mentions him having to close the door of hell on all demons forever.
  • Hell on Earth: The setting of the story, really. The inhabitants of hell have somehow escaped and coexist among the humans on Earth, their malevolence having sunk deep enough upon the earth that dark forces rule from the higher-ups, though the lives of some monsters are implied to be as sucky as the humans.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Bill, a werewolf in this story, belts out a howl in mourning of Nancy after murdering her.
  • Hunter of Monsters: The Knights of Nostradamus, according to Miss Bedwin, is the fancy name for a monster hunter. Truth be told, they do hunt malevolent beasts as protectors and wielders of good magic.
  • The Hyena: Whenever Charley Bates finds something funny, he gets very hysterical about it, to the extent of rolling on the floor. Sometimes Dodge has to knock him out of it to get him back to his senses.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Sowerberry household all appear to have no issue eating human guts, as they see it as a privilege to have a constant supply of meat. Oliver has none of it.
    Oliver: Haven't you heard? "You are what you eat." Explains a lot.
  • Karma Houdini: Fagin escapes with his remaining crew before the knightly cavalry arrives. Both the Knights of Nostradamus and the Brotherhood of Fenris are keen to find him but he's nowhere to be seen.
  • Last of His Kind: Implied. Fagin is resentful towards the Knights, the latter of whom think they've killed off all the soul stealers until they learn of Fagin.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Bill Sikes’ death is especially gory. After being possessed by Nancy’s angry ghost, the sound of his body being torn apart can be heard before he bursts into pieces. Gore splatters on Oliver’s face as Bill’s bony bits of flesh slide across the roof tiles and off the building.
  • Matricide: Bullseye recollects the first time when his brother, Bill Sikes, shifted into wolf form and attacked their mother. Bill ended up burying the pieces that were left of her.
  • Mercy Kill: Oliver can give the woe-begottens peace from their eternal unrest of being Flesh Eating Zombies by magically releasing their souls from their decaying, roaming bodies. However, he hates considering it as killing, the thought of stealing others' lives sickens him.
  • Mind Rape: Inflicted on Oliver by Fagin's Tablet of Horus, which shows him his worst fears, but Fagin lies that Oliver would see his true nature. This leads to his Despair Event Horizon.
  • Only in It for the Money: Bill Sikes wants nothing to do with the Brotherhood of Fenris, as Bill's ancestor, Sköll, was banished by Fenris. Bill complies to working with Fagin (for the most part) as they intend to go by the Brotherhood’s demands in “taking care” of Oliver so they can be rewarded by them.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: As if being an orphan in the workhouse isn't bad enough, the orphans in this story are meant to be corrupted and sacrificed to hungry gods. Yikes.
  • Our Banshees Are Louder: Mrs. Bedwin lets out a prolonged belting scream to ward off intruders. Their hands cover their ears to block out the sound while crying out and claiming her to be a banshee. Truth be told, she is.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Werewolves are the descendants of Sköll, the banished son of the wolf god Fenris. Bill Sikes is one of them, and so is his brother Bullseye, however the latter was born unable to shift into human form. They are still weak to silver, silver bullets especially.
  • People Farms: The place where orphans are sent to be “farmed” possesses a more literal meaning. Leeches are used to suck the blood out of orphans’ necks, then the plump leeches are packed in hay and sent to vampyre higher-ups who enjoy feasting on young blood.
  • Professional Killer: Bill Sikes would usually be paid to kill people as the Wolfman. However, work has dried up with more people preferring to take murder into their own hands. As a result, he moves into Fagin's place because he's run out of money.
  • Protagonist Title: Just like the original, except that Mr Bumble instead named our protagonist as Oliver Twisted.
  • Quieting the Unquiet Dead: Oliver can grant peace to the woe-begottens by magically freeing their souls from their decaying roaming bodies. He doesn't regard it as killing because he's repulsed by the idea of taking lives.
  • Raised by Orcs: If the workhouse isn't already crappy as it was, this version has it run by the Brotherhood of Fenris, who intentionally grow the inhabitants to be as corrupt as possible. Oliver would later make them one of the evils he seeks to destroy.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Oliver's mother, Agnes, is Brownlow's daughter. They had no direct familial ties in the original story.
  • Relationship Reboot: Played straight by the end of the story between Oliver and Dodge, after the latter tricked the former the first time they met. They then decide to be friends for real and reintroduce themselves to one another, and Dodge reveals his true name as Jack Dawkins.
  • Restraining Bolt: Each of Fagin's crew wears one of these as an enchanted key around their necks, rendering them Incapable of Disobeying Fagin. When one is given to Oliver, it also functions as a magical Power Limiter.
  • Savage Wolves: Bill, a werewolf, is frankly quick to resort to violence and berates everyone on a constant basis, particularly Bullseye (who is his own brother), who is also just as threatening as an angry, heavily scarred shaggy white wolf.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Bullseye is a werewolf who was born with the inability to shift into human form.
  • Super Smoke: Dodge's ability. He is visually described to flicker between flesh, bone and smoke. He is also able to simultaneously transform himself and another into smoke when holding their hand.
  • Tears of Blood: After his transformation post-Despair Event Horizon from Fagin's Mind Rape, Oliver is described to have eyelashes clumped with blood while the whites of his eyes were shot through with red.
  • Thicker Than Water: Bill had always hated his brother Bullseye, but kept him close anyway as they could understand one another. Bullseye knows he couldn't keep a secret from his brother that could harm him, so he spills the beans about Nancy's meeting with Brownlow to him, despite feeling equally guilty of snitching on her.
  • Tongue Trauma: Briefly discussed, the Sowerberrys want to cut off Oliver's tongue to get a reaction out of him, but are interrupted before it can happen.
  • Vengeful Ghost: The existence of vengeful wisps dooming the guards by the gallows is discussed, and Nancy becomes an especially angry spirit. Her ghost enters the body of her killer, Bill Sikes, and blows him apart from the inside out.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: Bill Sikes is horrified when Nancy’s wisp enters him, then things only get worse when his body flings out and stiffens before being blown apart.
  • You Are Who You Eat: A temporary side-effect of Fagin's consumption of souls is transforming into the people who the souls belonged to.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: Fagin is a demon named Ankou, a soul stealer or a soul eater to be exact. The napkins and belongings of others stolen by his boys are his link to his targets, with the help of pretty bloody Black Magic.