With her noticeably large hands and feet, Lena Mattacascar is undoubtedly different. Secretly, she’s wondered if she might actually be Peculiar, and if her father—who left when she was only five years old—may have been Peculiar too.
On her eighteenth birthday, Lena receives a letter that inspires her to leave the safety of the City and search for her father in the northern wilderness of Scree—a place inhabited by people whose own unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Her journey leads to romance, danger, and a darkness she’s never imagined. For in the wilds of Scree, she must confront her deepest fears . . .
“Readers graduating from the stories of C.S. Lewis and Edward Eager will be right at home—and cat lovers will adore Jimson’s employer’s pet, Mrs. Mumbles. McQuerry’s extensive world-building leaves open the possibility of future installments.” —Publishers Weekly
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A PHYSICAL EXAMINATION RAISES THE QUESTION OF GENETICS
LENA AT EIGHT YEARS OF AGE
"There's no mistaking what your father was, not when you've got feet and hands like those." Nana Crane grabs my hand in her own plump one. She runs her finger with the emerald ring down the length of my palm. I try to pull away. She pinches my hand tighter. "Goblin phalanges. The hands and feet don't lie, child. It's in your genes."
"But Poppa doesn't have hands and feet like these!" Nana Crane's ring glints in the light. "No, he doesn't. His are small. Everything about him is small, especially his heart. I always knew there was something peculiar about him despite his talk of being from the East." She drops my hand and stares into the middle distance. Her chin quivers. "Not every goblin has them, but it's a sure sign. Just like those feet. You're bound to be just like him."
It scares me when she talks that way about Poppa. Inside the ugly specially made shoes, I try to curl my stiff toes to make my feet as small as possible, feet that are so long no regular shoes will fit them. I am tired of the doctor prodding and poking at my tender feet, then speaking as if I weren't in the room.
"The girl has the signs of goblinism. There's no denying it, even though not many people can recognize the syndrome anymore." Dr. Crink looks at my mother over the edge of his glasses. "She displays three readily identifiable characteristics to the trained eye: elongated hands and feet, soft fleshy soles, and precocious intelligence. If you're worried about what other people will think, don't. Hardly anyone but a few old doctors has seen anything like this in their lifetime. Most doctors would say these hands and feet are a defect of birth."
A small gulping noise. Mother is having trouble speaking.
"When you find them clustered like that" — the good doctor shrugs his beefy shoulders — "it points in one direction. Of course, only time will tell about the other, less obvious, characteristics."
I sit on my hands. They splay under me like giant spiders. Mother has always said that they are piano-player hands. That I have an advantage any pianist would envy. I can easily span more than an octave, but practice makes my fingers ache. I know I will never be more than a middling pianist.
"And those characteristics?" Now that her voice returns, it is hardly more than a whisper.
Dr. Crink continues as if he didn't hear her. "You're sure that no one in your family has displayed these traits?"
"Your husband's family, then?"
"I've never met them, but my husband has normal hands and feet."
The doctor writes something on a clipboard. "I'd like to meet with him."
"My husband is no longer with us."
He looks up, removing his glasses. "He is deceased?"
Mother's face blooms pink. "No, he left us several years ago."
She now has the doctor's full attention. "Left, eh? Describe him to me, please."
I remember Poppa's quick laugh, the funny faces he made, the way he used to sing to me when I cried. And I remember the other things: flashes of anger that could sear me to the bone.
"My husband is a short man with a quick wit and good business sense. He can be very charming."
"Charming, is it?" The doctor raises caterpillar eyebrows. "And does he drink?"
Mother's lips pleat into her face. I know that look. She won't say another word.
"Loyal." He shook his head. "Silly woman. We're talking about a genetic disorder. In mixed marriages — cases like these — we wait and see which traits are dominant."
"Surely, environment can —"
"There is no question of nature versus nurture. Science shows very clearly that development is all in the genes. Mr. Mendel proved it with peas." He tears a piece of paper from his pad. "Here are the other things you should watch for."
* * *
And they had watched. Lena's feet grew longer and the soles softer. Her hands spidered out like daddy longlegs. Her grandmother monitored her for wild thoughts, a keen interest in money, and for a temper she did her best to hide. And Lena had watched herself.
Lying in her bed at night, her heart pounding, she wondered if her thoughts were too wild, if goblin genes would overtake her while she slept. She imagined running away on a belching steam train or fording streams on the back of a fat elephant while its leathery trunk swung like a pendulum. In her dreams, Lena rose and fell with the swell of waves, captaining a ship, sea spray salting her hair. When she had these dreams, she knew that goblinishness was taking hold, growing from a seed buried deep inside her. No other girl could have such wild imaginings and, try as she might, she couldn't tame them. And the truth was she didn't try very hard.
Every morning she checked the mirror with dread, expecting a face she didn't know. She wanted to be anybody other than her father's child.
A SHORT AND UNSATISFACTORY LETTER FROM HER FATHER DELIVERED BY HER MOTHER ON THE OCCASION OF HER EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY
"Sit down, Lena. I have one last gift for you."
Puzzled, I look at my mother. She had already given me the new Wilkie Collins novel I'd been wanting and a short green velvet jacket. Now I notice her hands trembling, and the telltale flush of her face.
"Best get it over with, Rose," Nana Crane urges from her chair by the fire. "It's past my bedtime, and I want to see what the fool had up his sleeve this time."
"Your father left you a small inheritance and an envelope to be opened on your eighteenth birthday." My mother places two envelopes side by side on the tea table next to the bone-handled letter opener. Poppa's script, sharp and vertical, runs across the front of both envelopes. With my own hands trembling I slit open the larger of the two envelopes.
Inside, there is a paper wrapped around a slim stack of crisp, new bills. Not a fortune, but enough. Enough to finance my plans.
"Well, what will you do with it?" Nana Crane's eyes glitter like a bird's.
"Go to Scree." When I finally say the words aloud, I realize I have opened a box that cannot be closed again. I think of Pandora.
"Oh, my dear!" Mother wails.
And then louder and sharper, Nana Crane's voice: "Of all the foolish nonsense! You will not set foot in that wild place."
"I've been thinking about it for a long time. I have to go." I'm watching Mother's face, knowing my words will hurt and hating myself for them.
"Just like her father. It's her goblin blood calling her home." Nana Crane barks a dry laugh. "What's in the other envelope?"
"I'm not going to open it yet." The envelope is clenched in my hand. "I expect it's a letter." Better to read it in private, without Nana Crane's eyes on me, without Mother's tears. I rewrap the bills in their paper and slip them back into the envelope.
"No good will come of this." And leaning on her cane, Nana Crane makes her way to bed.
A log pops in the fire. I stay seated in the dim parlor with Mother, both envelopes buried now in the pocket of my skirt.
"Scree's the place where they send criminals. They say the forests are filled with hideous things. Why would you want to go to such an uncivilized place?" Her voice quavers.
I count the furrows on her forehead. It's the first time I've disobeyed her openly.
"Because I have to know if Nana Crane is right, if I am part goblin. If there really are such things as Peculiars." Now it's my voice that stumbles. "I can't keep living this way, wondering what I am, what I'll become. Besides, it's the kind of place Poppa might have gone. Maybe I'll find him there."
"I've reassured you over and over again: You're a perfectly normal girl, despite your poor hands and feet." She puts her arms around me to offer comfort the way she did when I was little. For a minute I lean into her warmth. Her voice drops to a whisper. "No matter what Nana Crane says, your father is not a Peculiar. He's from the East, which explains some of his unusual ways ... although it doesn't excuse abandonment."
For the first time I hear the strain of bitterness in my mother's voice, the words stretched tight as a wire. "Don't look for him, Lena. He's not worth the risk."
It's almost dawn before I'm alone in my room. I rip open the envelope.
It appears that I have no talent for ordinary life. I'm hoping you do and that you take after your mother. Things will go easier with you. There are many rumors you will hear told of me. Some of them may be true. I've left you something to help you get by. You'll know what to do with it. Don't let anyone tell you different.
I can't help but notice that he had signed his full name, as if writing to a stranger.
I tuck the envelope of money under my chemise in my dresser. Then I read the short letter once more, trying to decipher a hidden meaning. What was he? Did he know I'd break my mother's heart? Each carefully formed letter was as sharp as the quills of a porcupine, bristling across the page. If I touched them, they would prick, draw blood.
PASSENGER TRAIN FROM THE CITY TO KNOB KNOSTER
She was more than the sum of the crimes of her father. Or so Lena had told herself every time Nana Crane got that gleam in her eye, rattled her knitting needles, and reminded her of Father's indiscretions, of which there seemed to be no end. She was still telling it to herself now, at eighteen, in the Pullman car of a passenger train where, beyond the blue brocade curtains, the arms of trees waved her on through billows of steam. A pot of tea steeped on the table, a familiar comfort for an unfamiliar journey.
Lena was the last passenger in her car. The rest — mostly businessmen in their starched collars and bowler hats, and harried parents taking sticky-faced children to autumn festivals in the country — had disembarked at the various small towns strung along the rail line. She recited their names: Middleborough, Tropolis, Banbury Station. Only three stops left before the end of the line, three stops that would take several hours. Finally, Lena could stretch out her legs, which she had kept tucked under the seat until the last passenger left, and loosen the laces of her handmade boots. How she hated them! Good alligator hide, the cobbler had assured her, never wore out.
The scenery had become progressively wilder as the train made its way north from one town to the next. Each pair of towns had been farther apart than the last two, with small forests and hummocky fields in between. For the first hour she had stared out the window, never turning to the novel on her lap. She had always lived in the City. Open fields and forests were as foreign as brocade curtains and the cut crystal lamp swaying above her head. She pulled off her gloves and flexed her fingers. When she was younger, her mother had cut the fingertips from regular gloves so that they would fit her hands.
As the train slowed, the walnut-paneled door slid open and the conductor strolled in. "Approaching Northerdam, miss," he said around the ends of his blond waxed mustache. "And I've brought some biscuits for your tea."
He shot a second glance at her gloveless hands. Almost everyone did. But to his credit, he made no comment, merely nodded and passed on to the next car.
LENA MEETS A MAN OF SCIENCE
LENA REMOVED A MAP FROM THE LINING OF HER DRAWSTRING purse and smoothed it across the marble-topped table. She had traced her route with a thick black pen months earlier. Three more towns to the borders of Scree, where the train line ended — and most roads did too. Knob Knoster, the first stop on her own journey, was the last town, a mere outpost that jutted into the sea on a knob-shaped projection of land. She had circled the name and then drew a line north. Not thirty miles beyond the town was the border of Scree behind its hedge of forest and shale. No one knew much about what went on beyond the borderland, other than the government's official statements: an undeveloped land, rich in natural resources, home to small numbers of indigenous Peculiar people. Lena had read every report she could find in the library.
"Scree's been declared terra nullius."
Lena jumped. She had been so absorbed in her map that she hadn't heard the conductor enter the car again.
"A 'land belonging to no one.' Just got it over the telegraph last night."
He paused to look over her shoulder at the map.
"Excuse me if I'm interfering." His mustache twitched. "But the government has sent in the military to colonize the land and keep order. Most of it is now officially a penal colony. No one's there but misfits, political enemies, and aliens." He considered a minute. "And a few profiteers. Of course, there's the indigenous folks, but I don't know what they're considered. Superstitious people say Peculiars live there."
Lena worked hard to keep her face blank at the mention of Peculiars.
"There are not even any reliable roads. Can't see why a young woman would be interested in a place like that." He refilled the water in her teapot.
Lena quickly refolded the map. Her hands were trembling. "I am traveling to Knob Knoster to see my mother's cousin."
The conductor wiped the spout of the silver serving pot with a white towel. "Beg pardon, miss. It's just that your map shows Scree and —"
"And I am a student of geography. The land interests me." Lena turned her face to the window.
"Yes, miss. Let me know if you need anything else, miss."
Lena heard him leave, but she did not turn her head. A lone woman traveling to Scree for any purpose was sure to draw attention and arouse suspicion. No woman in her right mind would consider such a notion. Nana Crane had made sure Lena understood that. Tales of murders and enchantments, unrest and unsavory politics filtered their way beyond the borders and into the City. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who had heard a story about Scree and its inhabitants. And Lena, thanks to her grandmother, had heard them all.
The train slowed to rest in a valley after lumbering up Jackson Grade and then racing down to Northerdam. It belched great sighs of steam in satisfaction. Lena drained the last of the tea from her cup. Nana Crane would have insisted on reading the leaves, and Lena purposefully gave them a poke with an index finger to rearrange her fate. She flexed her fingers; they were sore. They often were. The doctor had said it was the extra knuckle. The walnut door slid open again, and, without looking up, Lena sighed, then politely asked for more biscuits.
"I'm afraid I haven't brought any with me." It was not the voice of the blond conductor. It was a younger voice, but a man's voice all the same. She looked up slowly as she slipped her hands into the folds of her skirt.
"Jimson Quiggley, without any biscuits." He removed his hat. His curly black hair immediately sprang out, glad to escape the confines of such a hat. "May I — that is, unless you don't want company?"
She didn't want company. She had been relieved when everyone left. Why was this man — well, he was really not much older than she was — getting on the train so near the end of the line? She could hardly ask him. She smiled thinly.
"Of course. Lena Mattacascar." She nodded. She was not about to offer her hand to this stranger in a cheap suit. Despite being strictly middle class, Lena's mother and Nana Crane had been very particular about the cut and quality of cloth in Lena's few traveling garments.
"That's good. I walked through the cars until I found someone to sit with. It's better than traveling alone. Did you know there are only a few stodgy sorts left in the front?" He spoke quickly, all in one breath. Lena found it annoying.
"Not many people travel this far north." She wanted to put her map back in her purse, but to do that she would have to remove her ungloved hands from the fabric of her skirt.
He plopped down in the seat across from her; stretched his long legs, and carefully placed his dreadful little hat on the seat beside him. It was amazing how much a hat could tell you about someone, Lena thought. Either his taste was bad or it was the best he could afford.
The train lurched to wakefulness, shuddered once, and let out a loud snort before resuming its lumbering gate.
"We're headed out to the coast now." Jimson had his nose pressed to the window. "That's my sister Polly. She rode with me to the station." A pretty black-haired girl with a toddler at her side waved a handkerchief at the train. "And my nephew, Gelft." With two fingers he stretched his mouth wide and waggled his tongue back and forth at the little boy on the platform. "He couldn't wait to see the train. We took one of those new steam wagons to the station! Holds eight people and doesn't need a horse at all because it has a sixteen-horsepower, two-cylinder motor. All run by steam!"
Lena tried not to laugh. It seemed Jimson was as excited as Gelft. "I've never been in one," she said. "But I've heard they're very noisy."
"Noisy? That's the sound of progress!" Jimson kept his face pressed to the window as he waved to his nephew.
Excerpted from "The Peculiars"
Copyright © 2012 Maureen Doyle McQuerry.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A Physical Examination Raises the Question of Genetics,
Chapter 2: Lena Meets a Man of Science,
Chapter 3: An Encounter with a Criminal and a Gun,
Chapter 4: A Lawman's Questions,
Chapter 5: Revelations,
Chapter 6: Knob Knoster by the Sea,
Chapter 7: Miss Brett's for Women,
Chapter 8: The Marshal Again,
Chapter 9: Mr. Beasley's Library,
Chapter 10: An Offer,
Chapter 11: A Medical Conundrum,
Chapter 12: An Illuminated Text,
Chapter 13: A Criminal Endeavor,
Chapter 14: The Nature of Peculiars,
Chapter 15: A Tragedy in the Orchard,
Chapter 16: Explorations,
Chapter 17: A Distressing Discovery,
Chapter 18: Lena Spies a Winged Girl and Makes a Pact,
Chapter 19: Pansy Demple,
Chapter 20: More Revelations,
Chapter 21: Lena Plans an Escape,
Chapter 22: Through the Library Window,
Chapter 23: The Aerocopter,
Chapter 24: The Borders of Scree,
Chapter 25: The Borderlands,
Chapter 26: The Girandoni,
Chapter 27: Travels to Ducktown,
Chapter 28: Bounty Hunters,
Chapter 29: Lena Joins the Criminal Class,
Chapter 30: In Which Jimson and Merilee Display Acting Abilities,
Chapter 31: Stranded in the Snow,
Chapter 32: The Question of Genetics Is Raised Once More,
Chapter 33: The Family Business,
Chapter 34: Porphyrium,
Chapter 35: Learning to Whistle,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A delightful read. Engadging characters and a uniquely created world. Nothing is what it seems upon first look. As the saying is true don't judge a book by its cover, don't judge events that happen upon first appearences. Things are not always as black and white as they appear and be prepared for the unexpected.
A Fantastical and fun page turner, The Peculiars has me hooked! A wonderful entrée into the steam punk genre, McQuerry creates a richly developed world full of multifaceted (and multi-jointed!) people, fascinating inventions, locations that come vividly alive, and characters who you will be loathe to put down when the book is finished. While so many books in the YA market try for cheap shock value, The Peculiars sets a not only a classier tone, but one that raises the bar of today’s best-sellers. She elicits true suspense, not only in the plot, but in the characters themselves. Others have elaborated on both so I will not reiterate here. But I will say I found the characters completely relatable, even in their “peculiarity,” and found myself wanting to know more – especially about Jimson and Mr. Beasley. One minute you think you know the character, but then more is revealed, giving a deeper and intriguing picture into what bravery, love, authenticity and treachery look like. Frankly, the cat Mr. Mumbles has more nuance than most main characters in the YA novels I’ve recently read. I would heartily recommend this book to middle-schoolers and above –almost to the point of stopping people on the street and saying: read this book! Sequel please!
Lena Mattacascar has lived her whole life being scrutinized by her mother and grandmother, watched constantly for signs of wild thoughts, goblinish behaviors, and anything that might prove her heritage which for so many years has been kept hidden or explained away. Lena’s father, a suspected goblin, who abandoned his family when Lena was small, has come back into her life via a letter he left for her 18th birthday and Lena is determined to discover just exactly who her father is and, ultimately, who she herself is. And so she sets out alone on a quest into a world of steam trains, dirigibles, and gas-powered lights, a world where science trumps superstition and criminals and “peculiars” are sent to Scree, a wild land where they are forced to work in the mines for a government that considers them soulless and expendable. Yet this is the place Lena knows she must go to find her father. Along the way she meets friends and foes, people who love her and people who suspect her overly-long fingers and feet as signs of her peculiarity, her valuelessness. Lena, while unwavering in her purpose, is far less sure of her own self. For the first time in her life she is out on her own, an obedient girl going against her mother’s wishes, full of fears and desires and self-doubt. Through deceit, discovery, flying machines, and adventure, Lena discovers not only who she is, but also that what we think we see may not be what is truly there; that who we think we are may be completely wrong…or completely right. Well-researched and carefully written, McQuerry has written a relatable book that I can recommend equally to my 10 year old daughter and my 75 year old mother, as well as to anyone who is intrigued by fanciful machines, adventure, and even budding romance. I look forward to the sequel that is surely on its way.
THE PECULIARS by Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a peculiar read.Lena Mattacascar travels to the outskirts of the wild land of Scree in search of her father and the secret who or what she really is. When she comes across a young librarian, she befriends him and soon takes up residence in the home of inventor Mr. Beasley. Strange things happen in his home, and the town¿s marshal persuades Lena to investigate. She¿s soon in over her head and must discover who to trust or it might mean her own life and others on the line.THE PECULIARS started out very slow, and the pace didn¿t pick up much until the last third of the novel. The characters intrigued me and were mysterious. Information about them trickled at a steady pace and kept me guessing. The setting and creatures intrigued me. The elements of steampunk were light and sprinkled throughout as well as the romance was more hinted out than actually realized. In the end, the mysterious nature of the plot and characters kept me reading, but I just wanted more from the plot and characters with less description of the scenery.Maureen Doyle McQuerry¿s THE PECULIARS intrigues the reader with its enigmatic characters and is a good read for those who want an introduction to steampunk story elements.
Originally Reviewed at: Mother/Gamer/Writer Rating: 5 out of 5 Controllers Review Source: NetGalley Reviewer: Heather The Peculiars is a steampunk novel set around a young half goblin woman named Lena. She has extra large hands and feet that she has tried ¿ all her life ¿ to disguise. After all, Peculiars have no souls, they aren¿t human, tricksters, charming¿or so the government claims. Fueled by the need for answers, and the hopes of finding her father, Lena sets out on a journey. She unexpectedly finds herself a new friend on the ride there, a man that does not seem to judge her for what she clearly is. As events unfold she finds herself in the employment of the infamous Mr. Beasley who is not only a man of medicine, but also of modern steam technology. But everyone has their secrets¿ This is my first real steampunk themed novel, and I wasn¿t certain I would enjoy it. While I may not be much into the trending scenes we find in the real world, I feel drawn to movies, shows and imagery of all things steampunk. It wasn¿t until reading The Peculiars that I developed a love for the literature too. The novel has well developed characters, a steady plot, and lots of excitement. Maureen Doyle McQuerry has an outstanding talent with descriptions and the ability to really paint a beautiful scene. The intertwining of many historical points is also to be noted as it really gave a sense of the period of time. Overall, The Peculiars is packed with action, an intriguing mystery, fancy machines and awesome weapons. There¿s also and adorable cat named Mrs. Mumbles that I¿d love to own. I highly recommend this story for young adults and of course those of us adults who refuse to stop believing!
3.5/5 starsIn The Peculiars, McQuerry has created a fascinating steampunk, alternate history of the American western frontier. In this new time line, some people are born with genetic abnormalities like wings or elongated hands and feet. Rumors abound about a strange land to the north ¿ a land filled with vast natural resources, beasts, criminals and such peculiar people. These stories are often dismissed by law-abiding, non-peculiar citizens as fantastical tales and the superstitions of gullible and unenlightened people. But Lena Mattacascar knows better. Lena herself displays physical signs of what her family doctor and grandmother both call ¿goblinism¿ in her thin hands and feet with their extra knuckles and stretched out appearance. Suspecting that the father who contributed to her peculiarities and who abandoned she and her mother long ago was in fact a treacherous, morally bankrupt goblin, Lena fears what she might become. As wicked as her father? Craving adventure and riches? When she receives a letter that her father, Saul, left to her for her 18th birthday, Lena decides to set out on her own for Scree to search for her long-lost parent. However, as she journeys northward, she gets more than she ever bargained for ¿ adventure, danger and romance in the wilds of Scree. Lena. Though interested in her story and the eventual outcome, I just couldn¿t bring myself to like her. Actually, that¿s not exactly true. In the beginning, I thought her very intriguing and was beginning to build that oh-so-important character-reader connection, but then it just kind of fizzled. When the reader is introduced to Lena, she is cautious and distrustful which befits her background and how she views the world. She is someone who is extremely conscious of her abnormalities, and has never felt comfortable in her own skin, especially given that her skin has been cursed with that dreaded genetic trait of ¿goblinism.¿ Curious stares and whispers have followed her throughout her life, and besides her mother and grandmother, she¿s never closely associated with anyone else because of the barrier her perceived difference creates. She seems strong, extremely curious about the world around her, independent, and appears to have a good head on her shoulders. Good so far. Lena is starting to grow on me. Then¿ it starts heading downhill. Lena strikes up an association with a certain character, giving them her trust in a gesture that seems out of step with how her character has been established thus far. It just doesn¿t sit well. Her association with this character causes her to make some horrible decisions that have devastating results. The situation that Lena finds herself in could potentially have lent itself to some amazing opportunities for character development, but sadly there are virtually no consequences for Lena¿s character. In fact, her rash actions rather serve to further her personal aims. It should matter ¿ what her decisions lead to ¿ but the weightiness of the situation is glossed over and almost forgotten. I guess in the end, I just felt like Lena¿s character was really building toward something big ¿ a revelation, an epiphany, maturation ¿ and in my opinion, that didn¿t happen. Despite her trials and tribulations, she comes across as shallow, naïve, and perhaps a bit self-centered. Don¿t get me wrong, I love flawed characters. I don¿t like when those characters show little growth. Jimson. I found him to be an extremely enjoyable character. His passion for life, for knowledge, his curiosity as to how things work, how he can lose himself in a scientific concept made him interesting. Add in his optimism, friendliness, loyalty and his willingness to see a person for who they are rather than what they are, and he becomes incredibly endearing. He¿s braver and more cool-headed in the face of danger than one might initially suspect; just an all-around decent kind of guy who I liked getting to know over the course of the novel. The world of
The Peculiars is one of my favorite young adult novels, probably because it's a breath of fresh air in the genre. Lena is a flawed character physically and otherwise, but unforgettable and intense. She has an internal craving for adventure that her Nana would have disapproved of--would tell her it's bad blood from her father. But she can't help but be pulled into the adventure and romance of Scree--land of Outlaws and rumored Peculiers.Set in the 1800s, Lena travels on her own to discover what she is, who her father was, and why he had left her. On the way she meets a lovely cast--Jimson Quiggley, whom she meets on the train, traveling to the border town to be a librarian to Mr. Beasley of the mysterious Zephyer House, which at first seems rather sinister. This belief is only lead on by marshal Thomas Saltre, determined to find out exactly what's going on in Zephyer House, and not afraid to use Lena to achieve his ends.I think Mr. Beasley is my favorite character. He's mysterious and hard to understand, you don't know if he's friend or foe but he's so friendly it's hard to believe he'd be anything but good.The writing style is decent, especially for a young adult novel. The best part about the whole novel however, is being swept up in Lena's adventure across the world that McQueery has imagined.
Background: Lena is not a normal teenage girl; she is actually quite extraordinary, with large feet and hands. On her 18th birthday she decides to take an adventure to find her father who left her when she was young. She travels to the mysterious Scree, which is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. While on the train to Scree, Lena becomes immersed in an adventure, which is more than what she expected on her quest to find her father.Review: A friend recently told me that a book is made or broken by the first 20 pages, and The Peculiars is made by them. In the first few chapters we are introduced to Lena, find out that her father is gone, and that she might be part goblin. Then we experience a train heist and learn a criminal has been abducted¿ I can only say that I wanted to keep reading and never put it down. The only qualms I had with the beginning of this story were the perceptions of others from Lena¿s point of view; she keeps informing the reader that she does not like to be stared at or judged for being different but upon meeting the first person (other than family) on her train ride, she judges him right off from the type of hat he is wearing and continues to do so with others. This also leads into her judgment of others throughout the book which steers the reader into the conflict. I think that this was a great read, within the steam punk genre it does offer some of the interesting science and steam powered inventions of the era. I think the overall this story was an interesting one, Lena was not really a likable character but the others were and the idea of criminals and Peculiar people being sent to the mysterious Scree was impelling. The Peculiars themselves where scarce, we meet Lena who thinks she is part Goblin and we meet another family that have wings¿but other than that there really isn¿t much development of these Peculiar races. I would have liked to see more of that, a learned about them, not just that the city people hated them. If you like adventures of any type, this book fits the build.
ARC provided by NetGalleyThe description of the book really caught my eye. I mean how could you not want to read a book that has a librarian as one of its main characters? And I guess you could also be interested in the fact that there¿s this group of people called ¿Peculiars¿ who have unusual characteristics...like wings or perhaps really long fingers and toes, like goblins. And so I eagerly dived into the story and wasn't disappointed.On her 18th birthday Lena Mattacascar receives her father¿s inheritance, a small amount of money and a deed to mine and she didn¿t know was in her family. So Lena decides to go and search for her father, who vanished when she was young, in the wilderness of Scree...where the Pecuilars live. The pecuilars have characteristics like wings or really long fingers and toes, like goblins do...and like Lena does. On the train ride north she meets a young librarian named Jimson Quiggley who is going to work for the inventor Mr. Beasley. Also on the train is the mysterious marshal, Thomas Saltre, who recruits Lena to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange people that visit his home. Lena is soon torn between two different world and a daring escape into the wilds lead her to confront her past and her fears of who she really is.Maureen has created a fascinating world, one that is easy for anyone to slip into. Who hasn¿t felt like they had features that made them stand out from everyone else, such as big ear or big hands, that make them feel like they want to hide away from everyone else? Lena is a character that is easy to relate to, not because she is different, but because she is so like many of us and gives us hope that we can overcome some of the challenges that face us in this world. Even better than that she is someone that many of us could call a friend. Yes, she makes bad choices from time to time, but she learns from them and grows from them. The other characters in the story are also easily relatable to, even the so called villain of the story the young marshal Thomas Saltre, has some redeeming qualities to him.The one issue I really have with the story is that it seems like we¿re missing part of the story. For example, about half way through the book we¿re introduced to this book that Mr. Beasley takes possession of from the nuns that appears to show how ¿the Percuilars¿ come from the same place as the rest of humanity, even the devout and pious missionaries. But this is only hinted at and never really fully explained or explored. It feels like a half formed idea that the author forget to come back to. Perhaps this is just the first book in a series and she¿ll explain it more, and I look forward to that if she does, but for the time its a detraction.Overall this is an enjoyable read and one that I¿d recommend to any young teen growing up, whether they be male or female, because they can all find something familiar to them in the story. I also hope there are future volumes to this tale and that we find out more about the mysterious book from the nuns
Set in a steampunk 1800¿s, Lena Mattacascar¿s journey takes readers from her quiet home in the City to the wild lands of Scree. Lena, with her abnormal sized hands and feet, is on a mission to find her father, determining whether she is, in fact, a Peculiar.The mystery surrounding Peculiars starts from the very beginning of the story. Ms. McQuerry gives readers insight into Lena¿s childhood that generates an understanding for why Lena is so shaken up about her genetics. As the story progresses, more speculation about Peculiars comes to the fore. It¿s said by hateful citizens that Peculiars are soulless and inherently evil. McQuerry draws readers in with the promise of finding out exactly what a Peculiar is and whether or not Lena should be labeled as such.The novel starts right off with Lena heading out on her journey. Along the way she meets many quirky characters who liven up the story and keep it from seeming too serious. McQuerry has a gift for creating characters and character names that fit right in with the alternative era. For instance, Lena meets an awkward Jimson Quiggley, inventive Tobias Beasley, and the murmuring Scree-cat, Mrs. Mumbles.Lena becomes a stronger heroine as her journey comes to a close. McQuerry does a wonderful job of taking this City girl and putting her through obstacles, in which, Lena prevails and makes something of her situation. The mix of fantasy and steampunk, with a little dash of romance, makes The Peculiars a spectacular read!*eGalley provided by NetGalley on behalf of Abrams.
Lena has always been a little different. Born with strangely elongated hands and feet, she's been cursed to live a life in gloves to hide her deformity and avoid the unwanted brand of "peculiar." After she turned 18, Lena decides to hunt down her birth father, who disappeared into Peculiar territory when she was young to see if she may have inherited some peculiar traits from him. Through a series of events, Lena finds herself lost in the peculiar wilds with an attractive librarian named Jimson.The Peculiars was, well...peculiar. It was trying to some sort of steampunk/fantasy adventure with a romance elements. In some ways it worked for me, but in others it didn't. The biggest issue for me was that I found much of the novel to just be downright boring. It moved incredibly slowly before it picked up after the first few hundred pages. Sadly, the book just never reached critical mass for me, it kind of hovered just below in a sort of story limbo that kept promising something amazing but just didn't really get there.Aside from the pacing, probably the weakest area of the book for me was the setting. It wasn't strong enough. It wasn't steampunk enough...it just wasn't there enough. This felt like it had the potential to be such a compelling world, but it just did not deliver for me in the end. I felt somewhat let down at the end of this book, almost like I had been cheated out of a potentially compelling story that just didn't work out.
Let me start this review by saying that I was super excited to read this book. I love Steam Punk, and I could not wait to see what kind of world McQuerry had created. I adored the world, and the characters were well-developed. However, the writing really threw me. I did not like how it switched from 1st person POV to 3rd person limited POV randomly throughout the book. It really took me out of the story and made it hard to focus. The fact that this happened when the character was remaining the same made the whole thing even more pointless. Honestly, it seems like some weird plot device just to make a book stand out. I didn't like it at all. Also, the pacing was slow as molasses. I had to put this book back several times and come back to it in order to finish it. If you enjoy a lot of world building and excruciatingly long descriptions, then this book is for you. Lena was an interesting character. She didn't feel like she felt in anywhere, and because of that, she was easy to relate to and sympathize with. She made some terribly stupid decisions and wasn't the strongest of characters in some respects (she always wanted Jimson to "save" her, for example), but the flaws simply made her realistic. I loved Jimson. He had a great energy about him, and he was just a really terrific character. I know this was Lena's story, but I wish that if McQuerry had insisted on switching POVs that she'd switched between Lena and Jimson. That would have been extremely entertaining. I also loved Mr. Beasley. He was the sweetest man!The plot itself was interesting, but not very suspenseful. There were some mysterious parts, but overall, there just wasn't any action or suspense to speak of. The concept kept me reading, and because of the lengthy descriptions, I could most certainly picture the world that McQuerry has created. This was an incredibly slow read for me, though. Also, with all of the descriptions, I felt like we should have known more what a Peculiar was. We learned about a couple of types of Peculiars, but didn't learn many details about them at all. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those of you who like a lot of world-building and descriptions. Also, if POV switching doesn't bother you, then this book may be for you. It's a different concept, and it definitely stands out from most Steam Punk and YA novels today. If you're looking for something different, then give this book a try.
I wasn't sure what to think of this book, since there's a girl with wings on the cover and I've gotten really tired of books about angels. It turns out that I shouldn't have worried because The Peculiars is a great little steampunk novel. Lena's always been an outcast because of the size of her hands and feet, but when she gets old enough, she goes off to see if she can find out what happened to her father (he left when she was little) and who she really is. In the process, she makes friends and finally learns how to start accepting herself. I loved the steampunk touches throughout the novel, as well as the story itself. I really hope that McQuerry gives us more of Lena's adventures, as well as more glimpses of the world she inhabits.
This was an odd book. Very different. I've recently discovered the steampunk genre. Some books are great and some are terrible. This is one of the better books. I loved the characters. Lena was a fascinating enigma. We are immediately shown how different she is. Called a 'goblin' by her grandmother, and called a 'peculiar' by others. She is an immediately likeable young woman. She sets her mind to something and follows through. The main male protagonist is Jimson Quiggley. A young man Lena meets on a train and later works with. He is a true gentleman. A great character to complement Lena. Mr. Beasley is the steampunk king of the book. Creating all sorts of inventions. He is also a physician. We are initially unsure if he is good or bad. I laughed out loud at the two missionary women. I enjoyed reading this book. I liked the writing style of the author. She did a great job of keeping the story suspenseful and interesting. I felt the writing flowed very well. I hope the author writes more books like this one. I loved the goblin/peculiar element to the characters.
The Peculiars definitely lives up to its name, if anything it is certainly peculiar.Lena has grown up under the scrutinous eye of her grandmother. She is shy, untrusting and a bit jaded with the people in the world who are so quick to judge those who are different. Lena displays characteristics of goblinism ¿ extra knuckles, strange hands and feet, elongated build ¿ and she and her family fear that she could easily become one of these money-hungry, treacherous creatures once she fully matures. It is believed that her father was exactly that sort of creature, and Lena is terrified of falling into the same lifestyle.After reading a letter from her father that he¿d left for her to be read the day she turned eighteen, Lena decides to head Northward to find a rumored land called Scree, where, supposedly, people with similar abnormalities live.I thought the world was fascinating. Ms. MsQuerry has effortlessly blended American History, Steampunk and her own fantasy world to make it seem completely real. I¿d love to physically step into this world, just for a few hours, to actually experience it myself.Ms. McQuerry has also crafted an engaging story with mostly likable characters. I think my favorite, by far, was the character of Jimson. He¿s extremely vivacious and naturally curious. I almost wish he was the main character.As far as Lena is concerned, I never fully connected with her. I understood her, and at times even agreed with her, I just never felt like I trusted her. Now, don¿t get me wrong ¿ I love an untrustworthy narrator. It makes the story so much more interesting, but at some point I have to be able to see behind their reasoning for some of their choices and I just couldn¿t do that here. Because of my inability to fully connect with Lena, I¿m a little on the fence with this one. I liked it, but I wanted to love it, and I just didn¿t.The book does raise some interesting questions and makes some very valid points, especially about how we treat those we perceive as different, and what that fear can do to a society.I would definitely recommend checking this one out if you like steampunk. As I said earlier, I thought the world was amazing.
Maureen McQuerry has created a unique and stand-out world. While at first it had the feel of fantasy it quickly became more historical fiction with fantasy elements. As the world is not exactly clear where it is, mentions of Europe and other 'real' places led me to believe it is someplace in America. There was also mentions of real historical figures but they were only mentions and didn't play any role in the story other than having made a gun or came up with an invention, etc. The book clearly has a steampunk look to it and while it has steampunk elements it is most certainly 'light' on the steampunk. There is an inventor but there was not much description of his inventions, they just 'were'. They did some traveling in aerocopter (flying machine) and some other things, but nothing real major. I was happy with what was there, but if you're expecting a crazy steampunk ride you may be disappointed. On the other hand, if you've held off on reading this because you don't enjoy steampunk then please don't let that hold you back. The steampunk is a very minor aspect in the story.I really enjoyed the world created and the aspect of the Peculiars. It was so different but yet so easy to relate to because there has always been those persecuted. This reminded me a little of the Native Americans because they were basically rounded up and put to work or just put in their own areas (the reservations now). While they were definitely different from the Peculiars, there was just enough there to make me think of that. And how wrong it is to persecute others because they are different and/or have different beliefs. This book would have been an outstanding read for me if it wasn't for the main character. I had a few issues with her and her decisions. She makes some pretty stupid choices and I could have maybe understood it better if the reasoning had been backed up just a little more. I needed to be more convinced about why she would do what she did. I was able to look past this aspect because so much of the rest of the story was fantastic. I also really liked the other characters. Jimson was a character that I couldn't help but like. He was a boy that craved knowledge and adventure. And I would have maybe liked him a bit more fleshed out, but I still liked him quite a lot. Mr. Beasley was a fascinating character as well and was one I could imagine so well. Kind of the crazy genius/doctor/inventor sort with weird drawn on eyebrows but was so kind and understanding of everything. Now my most favorite character of all was the cat, Mrs. Mumbles. I don't want to say too much, but this is a cat with character! Any cat lover will fall head over hills for her!This was a fun historical fantasy with a touch of steampunk and a dash of adventure thrown in. I definitely suggest you give this one a try!
Appropriate for middle grade and up.
The Peculiars, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry was engrossing. When I finished the read, I wanted the story to continue. An outcast girl on a quest through strange land. Ever something unexpected. I came to know the characters very well. I want to know where they go next. A superb read with great imagery. Jeff Bailey, author of The Defect.
The Peculiars follows the journey of a young girl, Lena, finding her father, and ultimately, her own identity. After living a sheltered life in the City for eighteen years, she is determined to travel to Scree, a territory where rumors of Peculiars- human-like creatures with no souls, are said to roam. During her adventure, she comes across Zephyr House and the mysterious owner Mr.Beasley, both of which are filled with secrets. The Peculiars is set in an alternative 1800s in the American northwest. McQuerry not only manages to weave into her story numerous references to real historical figures, but also intertwines rich fantasy and steampunk elements as well. In addition, Lena’s character as a complex, strong heroine combined with the different elements included results in a thrilling yet fresh story. Lena, during her journey, faces numerous obstacles which test her character and lead the reader to contemplate many thoughtful questions. For example, what does it mean to be human versus humane? Or, how does prejudice harm the people involved? Although this novel leads to many good questions to be asked, I find McQuerry’s world building often interrupts the flow of the story, resulting in some awkward passages and an initially slow-paced and mundane beginning. Furthermore, both the relationships between many of the characters and the characters themselves are undeveloped, which is disappointing since the basis of the story is so intriguing. This lack of more complex characters leads to a lack of attachment to the story and an almost reluctance to read on. However, The Peculiars is supported by very interesting circumstances and setting, and it expresses many good themes. The writing is easy to understand and is suited best for middle schoolers, and the idiosyncratic details give the story depth. Overall, The Peculiars is a quick and fun read, providing a strong protagonist and interesting premise. Review by Lauren A., 15, Lone Star Mensa
Steampunk is either hit or miss with me, and this one was definitely hit. Lena is a great character with an interestin personality. The world-building is solid and the writing is great. This is one of those books that’ll leave you thinking even after you finish reading. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed the romance, adventure and crazy inventions. There were some nice historical details. The heroine may have been a bit too naïve at times, but she came through. Hope there are more of these.
There’s a saying that goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” My life pre-GoodReads often entailed that as long as the summary sounded awesome and the cover looked gorgeous, the book/s would end up coming home with me. As a result, the book/s, I eventually will find out, would either be a diamond (my first John Green book was The Abundance of Katherines when I was still in high school, which spurred my obsession with his books after the said book was finished), or a rhinestone (until this very day, I cannot get over Lauren Kate’s Fallen—now that would teach me to reach for books with pretty covers). I really thought that I had kicked the habit to the curb now that I have access to GoodReads, but this book still had me reaching for it when I was browsing my local bookstore. Before I knew it, receipts were signed and the book was already in my possession. On the ride home, I felt quite bad. What if it was a book I ended up hating? And I bought a hardcover too. Upon getting home, I immediately looked for its ratings on GoodReads, and I was horrified. Would this be Fallen Part Two? Over the next few days, I was quite sure I wanted to have it exchanged, but a little part of me was curious about the book as well. I was pretty sure I had to judge it for myself. I am so glad that I didn't return it. You have to remember I was approaching the book with bias, but I had to convince myself that I was doing the book a terrible unjustice. When I was about seventy pages in, I was still quite wary. I was waiting for The Part Where It All Goes Horribly Wrong. It doesn't come. Lena was a tad annoying—an unforgettable heroine, indeed—but I had to remind myself that it is precisely because she is impulsive that there is a story at all. Although she was oftentimes impulsive, Lena is a character that readers can relate to, whether it’s her self-consciousness with regards to her long feet and spider-like hands, her insatiable need to reconnect with an absent father, or her insatiable quest for freedom. Even at eighteen, Lena was first introduced as a sheltered young snob because of her lack of contact with the outside world, but readers will connect with Lena as she tries to make sense of possible romances, and her eventual growth into a truly adventurous and accepting spirit. The pacing was good, and most of the characters were in their element. Mr. Beasley in the latter part of the book, however, has lost his credibility as a real, functioning character. Sometimes, his character sounds a bit too mechanical. There were some parts in the book that I also found questionable, although I have filed it away as Mr. Beasley being too much of an easygoing eccentric. All in all, however, this was a good read and thoroughly enjoying. Until then, I shall remain envious, Lena Mattacascar, of both your personal growth and of your possession of Jimson Quiggley's heart. - Michelle of The Twins Read