Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: May 2012
UK Release date: Amulet
Read via NetGalley
On her 18th birthday Lena Mattacascar decides to leave the safety of home and travel to the dangerous and wild lands of Scree to find her father and discover the truth behind her goblin-like hands and feet. On her journey she meets young Jimson Quiggley on his way to start a new life as librarian to Mr Beasley at Zephyr House, and he offers Lena a job and a safe haven when she needs it. But as the hunt for peculiars increases, Lena, Jimson and the eccentric Mr Beasley must flee to Scree to survive.
Lena is on a journey of self discovery as she heads off to Scree to find out who her father really is and if the rumours of her being descended from a goblin are true. As being a peculiar is a considered shameful and peculiars are treated with discrimination, contempt and mistrust, Lena tries to hide her hands and feet and who she really is. As she travels further north though, she is faced with people who accept her for who she is and others who vilify her, and she must learn to stand up for herself and accept herself no matter what. She does this with courage and bravery, and she was a great protagnoist for the story.
The most intriguing characters for me were the inventor Mr Beasley and his mysterious cat. Mr Beasley was an eccentric, missing his eyebrows, and able to invent pretty much anything; and he was constantly joined by his cat, who seems to be rather human-like and hyper-intelligent and potentially hiding some deep dark secret. I loved the mystery surrounding this unusual pair and the fact that they seemed to somehow know everything and could pretty much solve anything too.
I was intrigued to find out who the peculiars might be. Do they have special abilities? Are their abnormalities just genetic anomalies? Is Lena one or not? In fact peculiars seems to pass down unusual traits, such as wings or goblinism. I would tell you more about them, but actually these are the only two types of peculiars that were mentioned and I don't know much else about peculiars in general. I spent a lot of the story waiting and wanting to find more peculiars but it never happened, and because of this expectation I was a little disappointed at the end. From the research I've done, this seems to be a standalone book. But actually it reads like there is more to come and frankly I think it would benefit from a follow-on book as such, which could involve more peculiars and more of a definitive conclusion to the story.
I had to admit I also had trouble placing the time and setting of the story. At first I thought it was set in a completely new fantasy place with Scree as a wilderness at its north. But as references were made to Darwin, Lister, and historical authors, I realised it was set somewhere in the late 1800s to early 1900s. I always get thrown a little when fantasy and reality are mixed together this way, and whilst other readers might not find it an issue I prefer historical and fantasy genres to be kept pretty separate.
The Peculiars is a steampunk infused, historical fantasy. Although I didn't necessarily enjoy some of the different aspects of the story, I think there is still plenty of potential for character development and more involvement from peculiars which could be better harnessed in a second book.