[Review] THE PECULIARS by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

[Note: this book is not urban fantasy. It’s a Victorian/steampunk adventure about a goblin girl. Take from that what genre you will.]


Overview: 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 Screen 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.

My thoughts:  I had a hard time getting into this story. There’s a lot of problems with the first few chapters. I didn’t get past the train ride.

Lena, the main character, has the hands and feet of a goblin (i.e. extremely long fingers and toes.) As it’s set in Victorian-type times, Lena wears long dresses to hide her feet. She wears gloves to hide her hand. Black gloves because they “will make her hands look smaller.”

While Jimson was distracted, lena quickly stuffed the map back in her purse and pulled on the constricting black gloves. “You should always wear black, dear. They will make your hands look so much smaller,” the glover had said when lena had eyed a lavender pair with beading.

I think this is meant as a joke, but it doesn’t work. Since we’ve been told from page 1 that Lena’s fingers a long, slender and spider-like, she doesn’t need to “slim” them by wearing black. It seems to me that black would only call attention to her fingers, and I would think she would want to do anything but that. But later, in the train ride, for some reason that remains completely unfathomable to me, Lena decides to eat lunch in the dining car because she doesn’t want the one man in her car to see her fingers. Um, hello? But a whole dining car full of people is okay? There are big problems with this character, and her hands are just one of them. I also can’t imagine how she would be able to do ordinary things– like buttons, or use a fork and knife. It would be far more realistic for her to have to always keep her hands hidden and travel with someone who would do things for her. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Though the main character is supposedly 18, she acts more like she is a willful 12 year old. Also, the voice of the novel is much younger than 18.

This book is well-suited to the middle grade and younger YA audience.

Great book cover, and an intriguing premise, but they weren’t enough to overcome the problems for me.

Obtained via Netgalley.

Have you read THE PECULIARS? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.