Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Amulet Books/YA fiction, historical
Release Date: May 1, 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.
Steampunk is dangerous territory. Too often a mediocre story is studded with anachronistic mechanical references, slapped with the word “steampunk” and lauded as a daring and exciting new read. Even worse is when steampunk is code for soft porn!
Thankfully, The Peculiars is neither mediocre, nor pornographic. McQuerry presents a well paced and interesting tale, interspersed with just enough mystery and emotion to keep you reading well past the “just a few more pages” intended.
There are subtle lessons throughout, primarily about learning to love yourself and embracing diversity. It is nice to see the progression in Lena as she grows from a child lashing out against constraints to a young lady fighting for what she believes. Don’t worry- there is still a lot of room for Lena to continue to grow and the final pages are masterfully set up for a sequel.
My verdict: Read it. Although this is a “young adult” title, adults and younger children will enjoy it as well. The Peculiars is a great choice for a summer read-along with your kids.