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.
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Amulet Books
Two and a half stars: A steampunk that explores the long standing nature vs. nurture debate.
Lena is turning eighteen. For her birthday she receives a letter, some money and a deed to a mine in Scree from her missing father. Lena feels a deep, restless stirring inside. Adventure calls to her, but proper girls aren't supposed to feel adventurous. Is this unnatural feeling due to her goblin genes that she inherited from her absentee father? Her entire life, Lena has been forced to hide her spindly, spidery hands and her abnormally large feet. A birth defect that is a sign of her goblin genes, but what does it mean to be a goblin? A goblin is a person with unusual features who is thought to be soulless and a social miscreant, bent on evil outcomes. Lena has worried endlessly that she is a goblin without a soul who will meet a bad ending. Unable to deny the call any longer, Lena packs her bags and sets off to Scree, the land of the Peculiars in search of her long lost father and hopefully some answers. Is Lena indeed a goblin destined for a bad ending?
What I Liked:
- At the heart of the story lies the nature vs. nurture debate. Are we destined to greatness or failure by the very coding in our DNA or is our fate decided by the circumstances of our environment? Can a child born of parents with a dark past overcome his or her genetic programming? A tricky question that has been debated for centuries. I appreciated the author presenting this dilemma at the center of her story. Focusing on Lena, a girl with good intentions, trying to fend off her goblin genes. This is a coming of age story that tells the tale of a young lady finding her own identity and learning to be comfortable in her own skin. Along the way, her eyes are opened and she sheds some prejudices and sees the world and The Peculiars in a new way.
- I liked that this book focuses on identity and it steers away from the common romance storyline. It is refreshing to find a read without love triangles and cliff hangers. This book presents the whisper of a romance and attraction but it is subtle. A look, a hint, a feeling....no big sparks or insta love situations. Instead it is a slow and steady building that is just beginning to bud by the conclusion.
- I enjoyed meeting The Peculiars, the people born with deformities and abnormal characteristics. Many of these people have been persecuted and forced to live as outcasts because of their conditions. This book is a stark reminder that just because people are different they are not bad, nor do they deserve to be shunned. Thankfully, society has made significant strides in moving beyond appearance prejudices, yet there is more work to be done. Ms. McQuerry with her steampunk tale reminds us to look beyond the outward features and see the person inside.
- I adored the cat, Mrs. Mumbles. She is a fun addition to the story and she left her mark on my heart.
- I enjoyed the descriptions and the use of alliteration in the story. The unique descriptions were really nice.
And The Not So Much:
- While there are some positive highlights to this book, overall I struggled with final rating. This is not a bad book by any means, but one I can't whole heartedly recommend for the reason that it lacked fire and fever. The pacing is incredibly slow and not until the book reaches the three quarters point does it pick up. It was a bit of a struggle to stick with it.
- Lena is a difficult character for me to embrace. On one hand, I felt sympathetic toward her and admired her courage to take on the world despite her flaws. Yet, when she encounters a Peculiar with anomalies, instead of being sympathetic and understanding, she runs away. This upset me because I felt that she of all people should understand what it is like to be different, for everyday she has endured the stares and ridiculous comments regarding her hands and feet. I hoped that she would handle the situation better, but alas she does not. Granted, later on she sees the error of her ways, but it was a troublesome issue for me.
- This book is labeled as a steampunk, but unfortunately, it lacks all the gadgets and gizmos that set a steampunk apart. It is set in the late 1800's in an alternate U.S. history, and it does have a few steampunk elements, but not enough to capture my imagination.
- Finally, this is labeled as a YA title. I think that this book is beyond the YA audience. I can't say I would see the average teenage youth picking this one up and loving it. There is nothing that would appeal to this audience. It features an eighteen year old for all purposes is an adult and acts like one. All the other characters, aside from a teenager who appears toward the end of the book, are adults. The story is beyond the typical YA story line. Now I realize that these are not bad notations, in all honesty I like finding a book that steps out of the typical boundaries, but in the case, the book is so far beyond the norm that I think it would lose its appeal for young adults. There is nothing inappropriate about this book at all, it is a clean read. Don't pick this up looking for a typical/paranormal YA read because it is not what you are expecting.
The Peculiars is a book that failed to excite and engage me. Granted it is a good read but not one I can urge you to rush out and buy. This book has a few flaws and a lagging pace. The one shining element is the featuring of the age old nature vs. nurture debate and the ultimate answer to this question. This is a novel with potential but the spark fizzles and the excitement just isn't there. If you want to read something that follows the nature vs. nurture issue in a steampunk world this book might be right for you.
"She was more than the sum of the crimes of her father."
"He was staring at her black-gloved hands, which hung like two giant spiders by her sides."
"What would it be like to believe in something so strongly that you gave your life to it?"
"And all the while the sea remained her constant companion. It chortled and murmured, beckoning to her as she trudged along."
"But Lena had read enough books to know that adventures could start in the oddest of places."
"Being a quick learner is better than knowing all the answers."
"Don't be overly romantic. You've read too many books. Most marriages are just a business contract anyway. It's for the survival of the species and society."
"Calling him a goblin is just one way of simplifying a man who has made good and bad choices."
"Who can say what demons anyone has to fight unless we're inside the person's skin?"
"Does being the same as everyone else mean being better than other people or does it just make it easier to look down your nose at them?"
"It's not your family who defines you, they're an influence, all right, but they don't have the final say. We answer for that ourselves."
A copy of this book was provided to me by Amulet Books in exchange for an honest review.