Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry354 pgs.
Target audience: Young Adult
Lena’s unnaturally elongated hands and fingers have always brought unwanted attention especially in a society where anyone with odd features is known as a Peculiar and an outlaw. All Peculiars are exiled to the northern land of Scree where they live and work in the coal mines. Lena's grandmother and family doctor claim that her hands and feet are the first sign of goblinism, traits passed on by her father who vanished into the land of Scree when Lena was still a child. They say her father was a bad egg which means she’ll turn out the same way. Now eighteen, Lena decides it’s time to find her father and get some answers. Her quest begins on a train where she meets Jimson, a young librarian on his way to Knoster, a city on the edge of Scree, to work in the private library of an eccentric inventor, Mr. Beasley. After an incident aboard the train, Lena loses her purse with most of her money and becomes a person of interest to the local marshal, Thomas Saltre. Upon reaching Knoster, Lena gets a job plus room and board as Jimson’s assistant in a most spectacular library in order to buy supplies for her trip to Scree. Thomas Saltre takes a keen interest in this development and uses Lena to discover the secret happenings at Mr. Beasley’s home, Zephyr House. Although Lena’s not sure Thomas’s motives are entirely honorable, she is baffled and curious about the odd comings and goings at her new job, justifying her meetings with the charming marshal. The more she snoops with Jimson, the more mysterious and possibly ominous her employer’s actions appear. This story takes place in the late 1800’s and has some steampunk flavor with Beasley’s inventions which include a steam-powered flying machine. Magic, adventure, gothic elements, romance, secrets and odd servants abound in this thrilling new fantasy. For cat lovers, there is Mr. Beasley’s marvelously resourceful, intelligent and loyal cat, Mr. Mumbles – read to find out why he’s called that, it will make you smile. My only criticism is that the cover is misleading, it depicts a blond girl with wings when she is in reality a minor character in the story.