Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Publisher:  Abrams Books
Publication Date:  May 1st, 2012

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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This book was a tough one for me to review, which is probably why I'm reviewing it long after reading it.  I had to let it digest some, before I could truly appreciate it...  I will admit first that I was drawn to this book for one reason- the stunning cover.  I love the clockwork, the wings, the art.  It is a beautiful rendering, and very, very fitting to the story.  When I started reading The Peculiars, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it.  It was a little slow to start.  When I say "slow" though, I mean that I didn't feel compelled to drop things to read it.  Although there was a good bit of action from the beginning, it seemed irrelevant at the time.  About a third of the way through the book, that all changed though, and things began to fall into place.  Sometimes I really didn't like where the story was going, but things started to make more sense... The story is a unique one, with rich complexities, that require the reader to really stay with the story.  That is this book's strength and its weakness.  Readers who have a hard time keeping track of details are not going to enjoy this book as much, while those who thrive on the intricacies and subtle plot twists will love it.  The characters are all the type who have to grow on you.  There was not one, not even the protagonist, Lena, who I felt a quick connection to, and for most of them, it took me the entire book to work out whether I liked them or not.  As for the pacing, I mentioned before that it was a little slow to start, but it picked up quite well by about halfway through, and kept me turning pages until the end.  I really enjoyed the Steampunk elements of it, and I felt like the whole exile of the Peculiars added an emotional twist it it, that made me think of the prejudices that people who are different endure in our society, even now.  I greatly enjoyed the revelations of what was happening in Mr. Beasley's lab and his role in Lena's finding the answers she was looking for.  As far as the romance was concerned, I found it to be a little lacking.  It seemed forced, like it was added as an afterthought because YA novels MUST (insert sarcastic face here) always have a romance to be relevant.  I liked Jimson, but it just didn't click that way for me.  I would say the best part about this book would be the world building.  The author painted gorgeous pictures in my mind's eye of lush snowy landscapes, dilapidated, yet loved estates, and quaint, if depressed mining towns.  The Victorian era is a favorite of mine, and I think she nailed it.  I felt like I could picture every setting perfectly, just as she saw it when creating the story. 

Overall, I did end up liking The Peculiars more than I initially thought I was going to.  After sitting on it awhile, I feel even better about it.  It was well written, and the story was different from most of the YA Steampunk out there right now.  I can't say I agree with Booklist giving it a Starred Review, but I think it is a solid YA debut for Maureen Doyle McQuerry, and I think she is definitely one to watch in the future.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There is some violence, but nothing graphic or over-the-top, and there's an innocent romance.  It's really very tame compared to most YA.  That being said, this book is rather detailed in its descriptions and plotline, and I think it would be hard for many younger readers to follow, even if the content is benign enough.  I would say this is best suited for readers age 10 and up (5th grade+).

1 comment:

  1. I reviewed this book a while ago, and I found it very slow and tedious. I really felt nothing happened. Like you, I didn't hate it but I forgot all about it pretty soon after reading it!


Thanks for visiting my blog! I adore comments since they make me feel special and loved, just please don't spam me. I'm not interested in vacation offers, millions of dollars from Nigeria, or anything not book related!

Also, this is an award-free blog. As flattered as I am, I just don't have time. I'm happy if I have time to post all of my reviews on time, and am a momma of three to boot, but I appreciate the thoughts! XO