Book Review: The Peculiars / Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry / Format: Hardcover / Publisher: Amulet / Release Date: Out Now
Eighteen-year-old Lena Mattacascar has outlandishly large, spidery hands and feet. Worried that these, plus a stubborn, rebellious streak in her nature, are signs of an undesirable condition known as “goblinism”, she treks north in search of her long-lost father. Is he a goblin, or just a misfit? To find out the answer, she needs to penetrate into the remote northern wilderness of Scree, home of the Peculiars, people with abnormal traits shunned by society.
The early stages of this novel are entirely engrossing as Lena journeys to the salty, decaying seaside town of Knob Knoster and meets the inventor Mr. Beasley, a hairless egghead with painted-on eyebrows, who owns a wonderful library boasting such curiosities as Pygmy blow darts and a spear belonging to Genghis Khan. The setting is an alternative late 19th century, and McQuerry mixes real and faux period detail to magical effect. Lena herself is an attractive heroine, clever, resourceful, outwardly prim and proper but tormented by a sense of her own difference. McQuerry's prose matches the central character in sharpness and refinement.
Unfortunately, the story peters out once Lena reaches Scree, which actually seems more heavily populated, and rather less magical, than Lena's previous ports of call. Perhaps McQuerry is keeping her powder dry for a sequel, but the result in a lopsided book which delivers less than the considerable promise of its opening chapters would suggest.