Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance.

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 can’t say why I was intrigued by this book. I’m not a historical person usually, so I guess it must have been the ‘peculiar’ aspect. And overall, this was not a book I hated, nor loved. I am glad I read it, but it wasn’t like, stellar.

I loved the writing. And I loved the beautiful intricate scenery. I felt like I was really in a train in the Victorian times, traveling to this mysterious land of Scree. I pictured moor-y England and it was lovely. I even loved the Zephyr House and all of its strange objects. I guess this is “steampunk” though, really, I never really got the full-on steampunk feeling from this book until the last 100 pages or so. I also really liked the mythology; all of the lore surrounding the genesis of the Peculiars was unique and interesting. All of that, awesome.

I was less enchanted with Lena. Because this is a historicalish book, I feel like it takes longer to get to know characters because they are so reserved/ refined. When I finally saw Lena as a character, I found her rash, gullible and kind of spineless. I hated the way she fell for Thomas so easily when I immediately saw his wolfishness (no, he’s not a wolf) and then got frustrated when she got green-faced jealous of Jimson when I was rooting him from the first moment. There have been times when a character infuriated me so much I stopped reading the book and this was not the case. She bugged me, but it was over-lookable.

My biggest hitch with the book wasn’t something that I really felt until the end, but it was the overall pacing. The first 200 pages were kinda slow, but interesting, so I didn’t mind they were slowish. The last 100 pages was more like a constant fight/chase scene and while I’ve read and loved whole books based on that catalyst, for this book at that point, it felt off. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of moments that were great, but it didn’t have the same feel as the first two-thirds and honestly, I felt myself skimming.

I also recommend Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink.

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