Monday, April 30, 2012

The Peculiars

The Peculiars, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, is a somewhat interesting gothic steampunk tale for young adults, though I don't think the book quite fits the target audience. The style matches young adult fiction, but the characters are a little old. Aside from that, I found the book to be a tad slow-paced and simplistic, but it's sort of pretty, too, in its own kind of dark way.

Lena's family thinks she is half goblin from her father's side, her father who abandoned them when she was a child but left her a short letter and a surprise gift upon her eighteenth birthday. Lena, herself, is afraid of what she might be. She has the physical characteristics of a goblin: long, tender feet and an extra knuckle in each finger on her hands. But goblins are also supposed to be evil, base creatures. Since Lena wants and enjoys things most girls her age don't, she is afraid her evil side is coming out, so with the money her father left her, she leaves home for the wilds of Scree where convicts, outlaws, and supposedly other Peculiars (if they even exist) live. She's determined to find her father and discover who he truly is and what that might mean for her.

But before Lena gets to Scree, she's waylaid in a border town where a mysterious marshal stirs her heart and asks for favors, where a young librarian seeks an escape from his family obligations and shows a genuine interest in Lena, and where an inventor hides a great secret Lena believes needs to be exposed to the world. Goblin or not, Lena can't help being thrilled at the prospect of an adventure, but she may be in more danger than she realizes.

It's a fun book, certainly not boring. There's mystery, adventure, romance, and danger. It's sort of a slightly post-Victorian paranormal romance with a bit of science fiction thrown in, but none of these genres fully encompasses or describes the book. I liked it well enough, but I thought there was just a little something missing. Higher stakes maybe. A more complex plot. A more satisfyingly romantic end. It was good, but not great. Still, it's not a bad story, and the idea is clever, if not fully fleshed out. Where the book's adventure really gets going is in the final third. Until then, there's a lot of internal conflict, some unnecessary, as Lena wonders whether Peculiars are even real and if she is one. Three stars.

This book is available in stores in May.

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