When Snuff came out last year and was discussed here, several commenters made the point that Pratchett’s writing doesn’t read quite as it used to read, which is true – perhaps he has evolved as a writer, perhaps something to do with his Alzheimer’s, perhaps the fact that he is dictating to his assistant rather than writing himself, or maybe it is a mix of some or all of these elements. (I tend to believe this last one.) The point being: his Discworld books do not “sound” as they used to, and for longtime fans this is problematic.
In any case, Dodger is, in some respects, a clever workaround of that issue, as it is basically a Discworld novel transplanted to a mostly-real-history setting. Dickensian London rather than Ankh-Morpork, Charles Dickens rather than William de Worde, Joseph Bazelgette rather than Leonard da Quirm, Robert Peel rather than Sam Vimes (this one is not too subtle at all, since Vimes is of course derived from Peel), Angela Burdett-Coutts rather than Vetinari. Where Pratchett indulges in fiction he pulls more from Dickens than from Discworld (appropriately, as his writing has, I think, drifted more Dickensian as he’s grown older): Dodger himself is of course an Artful Dodger-as-hero archetype (with more than a bit of a mix-in of Pip from Great Expectations), but Solomon Cohen is very clearly a riff on Fagin and Simplicity reminds me quite a bit of Agnes in David Copperfield, personality-wise. The only distinctly Discworldy thing in the book is the identity of the Outlander, and that reveal works splendidly.
But is it a good book? Mostly, yes. As said, it doesn’t read in the way that Pratchett wrote at his peak; instead it is more in his later, meandering style, but that style is matched to a perspective character (Dodger) who is a meandering sort of person in the “goodnatured but ethically bendy” sort of way. The result is a book where, truthfully, not a lot really happens – you can describe the narrative in a paragraph – but the journey is pleasant, and that makes the difference. Recommended.