Title: The Peculiars
Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Genre: YA steampunk/fantasy
Published by: Thames and Hudson
Source: Received from the publisher (thanks, Thames and Hudson! Mwah!)
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar.
On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.
I was pretty disappointed by this book, ultimately. At the beginning it was going really well! There’s a girl, and she has ridiculously long fingers and toes (as you can see from the cover) and she’s going to go look for her father. Fair enough. The references to Peculiars and fingers made me think of Edward Scissorhands.
Plus, it’s steampunk! Steampunk is cool! Gears and zeppelins and goggles and steam-powered stuff.
Except…well, first of all there wasn’t much steampunk. Like, at all. There was an aerocopter that worked on steam aaaaand that was about it. Considering steampunk was actually in the blurb, there should have been a LOT more that indicated, you know, it actually was that genre. Second of all, there wasn’t much about Peculiars. I mean, the book is called The Peculiars. Besides meeting a few, nothing much was explored further.
The pace was very very slow. Before Lena goes to Scree, she has to work at a library with Jimson and Mr. Beasley. That took so long! The train scenes before it were actually really good. I liked Jimson, who didn’t seem to care that Lena had crazy-long fingers. I liked that it was fast-paced.
After that it went downhill. The characters were quite flat, nothing much was explained, Lena was unlikeable as a narrator (I mean, besides reporting everything about Jimson and Mr. Beasley to the marshal, she also gets ridiculously jealous of Jimson’s fiance, despite the fact that she’s known Jimson for about two minutes).
What I did like was the messages behind it. Okay, it preached a little bit, but I didn’t mind that so much. Peculiars are treated like Jews were during the Holocaust – they’re sent to separate places, outcast from society, made to work in awful conditions…stuff like that. The messages of “everyone is equal” worked really well, and I enjoyed that.
Also I liked the cat, Mrs. Mumbles. She was the only character who provoked an actual emotional response from me (but then that’s not surprising considering how much I love cats).
I didn’t hate this book by any means. It just didn’t do much for me, you know? If you’re looking for steampunk, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re looking for something with a slower pace, and themes of identity, I’d definitely suggest it.
Rating: 2.5/5 Wonderkitties