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.
Praise for The Peculiars
"McQuerry offers a brooding northwest setting touched by steampunk elements to tell a story that is in equal parts inventive fantasy, light romance, and thrilling adventure. With a backdrop as strong as its heroine, this one is a page-turner."
--Booklist, starred review
“The Peculiars combines a teenage girl’s search for her identity with a setting that merges the genres of fantasy, gothic and steampunk. A light romance, a bit of adventure and the author’s inclusion of historical notes complete this delightful offering.”
"Readers graduating from the stories of C.S. Lewis and Edward Eager will be right at homeand cat lovers will adore Jimson’s employer’s pet, Mrs. Mumbles."
"A creative, entertaining, and wholly original fantasy."
--The Horn Book
"Richly atmospheric read."
YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
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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.
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
This book was provided by the publisher from NetGalley This book surprised me a bit. I’d expect a lot more, but by the end of the book, not much had been resolved. I wasn’t at all fond of the heroine. She thought she was quite clever, but sadly she wasn’t very bright. She was a horrible judge of character, made extremely poor decisions, and pretty much made life difficult for those around her with her actions. I honestly can’t think of one thing the main character did which enhanced the book. For the most part, she acted more like a secondary character than the star of the show. As such, it made it difficult to want to follow her journey. The ending had a cliffhanger feel to it. As I mentioned, little had been resolved. However, there’s no indication this is book one of a series. Normally, I don’t stick with a book this long (34 days, Goodreads says). However, the book was like following breadcrumbs. I kept expecting more… hoping an event would redeem the entire book. Alas, this book remain just shy of interesting–enough appeal to get me to read a few paragraphs at a time but not enough to keep me engaged for very long. I started this book expecting to truly enjoy it. I’m just so shocked I found so little to like about it. Overall, this book left me unsatisfied.
This book is sweet, with a steampunk influence, and raises questions that are relevant today, despite the story being set in the 1800s. The characters are well thought out and have their own personalities, even the cat. There are nice little twists in the story, as well as a healthy amount of suspense and intrigue. This story is a great way to introduce the evils of discrimination to kids without being preachy or sounding like an after-school special. The ending is open enough for a sequel, and any continuation of these colorful characters would certainly be welcome.
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!
Review by Jill Williamson This is a fun book. Totally clean. Lena is shy and naive, self-conscious of how she looks, especially in regards to her hands and feet. Jimson is loyal to Mr. Beasley and enthralled with invention and progress. He doesn't care much for Lena's faith, which adds some interesting discussions here and there. And Mr. Beasley is the enigmatic inventor, who reminded me somewhat of Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies. I enjoyed the premise of what makes one human. The Peculiars with their strange deformities are said to be unable to go to heaven by missionaries in the story. The missionaries were written as firm legalists to their beliefs, though one changed her mind in the end. I'll be interested to see where the author takes this subplot. Lena's search for her father gets derailed by the marshal's quest, but it all comes around in the end. Her confusion about who to trust is likely a relatable experience for a young woman inexperienced with advances from a handsome man. The marshal is sneaky--I didn't trust him. But I could see how Lena might. This is not a fast-paced book, but I was never bored and look forward to the second book in the series. This is a fun, thoughtful, clean read.
On Lena's 18th birthday, she is given a letter from her long lost father. It contains a small inheritance which Lena decides to use as purchase of an adventure to find who, or what, she is. For Lena believes she is a Peculiar. The Peculiars are, for lack of a better word, mutants banished from acceptable society. Lena spent her entire youth hiding who she is and is ready to find a place she belongs, perhaps in Scree - the land of Peculiars. Along the way she will meet an enthusiastic librarian, a mad scientist, a charming lawman, a winged woman and a cat who's crying sounds like human mumbling. But will she find herself? First, let me speak to the cover (as I am such a sucker for a great cover).... It is beautiful and pulled me in immediately. Big applause there. Now to the plot. McQuerry's world in The Peculiars is interesting and intriguing. It has a Victorian/ Steampunk feel, which I am a fan of. It was mysterious and exciting and I loved it. However, the characters inside the world didn't draw me in as much as I had wanted to. Lena herself started out great as an awkward, somewhat sheltered girl but she never felt fully developed to me. Other characters seemed a bit pointless even. Honestly my favorite character was the cat. It's a solid good book, just not over the top memorable.
The Peculiars is a find-yourself, find your way kind of story. After reading the synopsis, I was immediately drawn in - and the cover helped as well! However, I found this book slow and drawn out. I love detail as much as the next person, but I felt the author spent too much time trying to describe everything. It picks up eventually, but even then, I found the "action" scene's just didn't compensate enough. The main character, Lena, annoyed me at first, but eventually she grew on me. The other main character, Jimson I loved from the start - he was probably the best part about the book. I haven't read a lot of Steampunk, but I was slightly disappointed about how this turned out. I hope there will be a second book, to see if it will make up for the first.
(I was given this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to NetGalley and ABRAMS) 18-year-old Lena has always been different. Born with strangely narrow, long hands and feet, and fingers and toes with extra joints, she has always worn gloves to try to hide her problem. Her Nana says that Lena was born this way because her father was a goblin(!) and Lena lives in fear of being labelled ‘Peculiar’. Living in an alternate world in the late 1800’s, criminals, and people who are ‘Peculiar’ are all sent to live in a place called Scree, where they are forced to work in the mines there as slave labour. Lena’s father disappeared – possibly to Scree –when she was 5, and on her 18th birthday her mother gives her a letter from him. The envelope also contains money and maps; maps for Scree. Setting off on an adventure to find her father, and to discover if she really is ‘Peculiar’, Lena voyages to the town closest to Scree. Here she intends to find a guide who can help her locate her father, and guide her through Scree. Disaster falls though when the train that she is on is held up by some ‘Peculiars’ and her purse is stolen. Low on funds; Lena gets a job with a man called Mr Beasley in order to earn enough money to continue on her journey. But Mr Beasley is being watched by the local Marshall, who tries to blackmail Lena into spying on Mr Beasley for him. Lena must now work out where her loyalties lie, whether ‘Peculiars’ really exist, and if she really is one of them. I really enjoyed this book. Lena was such a genuine character, who always tried her best, even when people scorned her and tried to label her ‘Peculiar’. Her mission to find her father was a journey of discovery, not only to find her elusive father, but to also learn some things about herself, and even people in general. The secondary characters were also great. I loved Mr Beasley and his strange inventions, and his cat that was just so clever! I also liked the fact that the story was balanced by the addition of two missionaries who were so sure that ‘peculiars’ were soulless! I loved the mystery surrounding the girl with wings, and the question of whether Lena really was half-peculiar or not, and what this meant for her. At the end of the book there were also some historical notes, explaining where the author got their information from, and the similarities and dissimilarities between Lena’s world and our own which was really interesting and showed that the author had put a lot of time and effort into researching this book. Well worth reading! 8 out of 10.
Peculiars, is a combination of two of my favorite things, steampunk and “peculiar” people/beings. I really enjoyed it. There are several main characters in this novel, Mr. Beasley, an eccentric inventor who has caught the attention of Thomas Saltre, a marshal, Lena, who has the characteristics of a peculiar, specifically a goblin, and Jimson, whom Lena meets on her way to Scree and is on his way to be the librarian for Mr. Beasley. The lives of all three intersect and their worlds are forever changed. Peculiars are people that are either part or wholly peculiar, meaning they have the traits of non-humans, (ie: offspring of peculiars) or are wholly non-human. Some are goblins, and some have angel type characteristics, these are the two mentioned in this installment. Lena’s father was a peculiar and her mother was human. Peculiars are persecuted and used as slaves, if caught, by humans in the mines of Scree. They have no rights and cannot own property. They are not allowed to live outside of Scree, based on a new decree from the government. Some people do not even believe they exist since a full peculiar had not been seen outside of Scree in a long time. This is an exciting book, with a lot of adventure. The plot keeps you on the edge and provides for a quick fun read. There is no sex or swearing, and a minimum of violence, nothing too bad. There is both action, suspense, mystery, and a bit of romance mixed in, making this a very enjoyable read. This book would probably be more enjoyable to a girl, though the action and inventions could be intriguing for a boy to read about as well. The romance is not overwhelming. This book is the first in a series, there is some closure to this part of the story, but you are left hanging until the next one comes out. I would definitely read the next book in this series. I would recommend this book for 7th grade and up. It would be fine for you to recommend to students, if you are a teacher, or to your kids, if they are looking for something new to read. There really isn’t a reason why this book would be for older Middle School kids, other than the concepts and language could be hard for a younger one to grasp. I received this book as an ARC. I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist parents and teachers in recommending appropriate books for your kids to read. Please read more of my reviews on my blog: sarahereads(dot)wordpress(dot)com
Before I even go into this review, I have to be very clear that I DID NOT finish this book. I will go into the reasons as to why, and why it's actually not a 1-star book, but I know some people don't consider DNF reviews as real reviews...so you can stop reading if you're one of those. :) The story centers on Lena Mattacascar, an 18-year-old girl who was born with a sort of oddity - extremely long, goblin-like, hands and feet. She decides to take a journey into Scree, the land where Peculiars live, to hopefully find her father who left when Lena was just a baby. She is convinced that the odd traits she has must be attributed to him, as she knows very little about who she is. I was completely in love with the first 25% of the book. I haven't really read any steampunk in the past and I was enthralled with the descriptions of scenery, Victorian clothing and transportation. I thought the characters were a little...meh...but there was still time for them to redeem themselves before I would consider dropping the book. The biggest problems for me started occurring after Lena had arrived at Knob Knoster and began working under Mr. Beasley at the Zephyr House. Instead of taking this time was a way to develop the characters into likeable roles, it was then that they really, REALLY started to irritate me. Everyone was too much! Pansy was TOO bratty, Lena was TOO ignorant, and the others TOO nonchalant. What was the deal breaker for me was Lena - gullible and far too easily trusting of the wrong people. I really don't want to give too much away (and I guess I'm not since this part is mentioned in the synopsis), but the mere fact that she trusted the Marshal, Thomas Saltre, enough so that he could coax her into spying on Mr. Beasley really disgusted me. I know she's been kind of sheltered but hello? She's 18 years old AND the book makes a point of mentioning how distrusting she is of strangers, who have often ridiculed her for her odd physical traits. The point where I absolutely could not read anymore was when Lena finds out the truth about what is going on at the Zephyr House and, instead of feeling guilty about "selling out" Mr. Beasley to the Marshal, she feels PITY for HERSELF! Umm what?! You've been sharing secrets and stealing Mr. Beasley's private books, yet your first instinct is to get offended because of what you think their intent was in hiring you? If I recall correctly (and I do), you kinda barged in there yourself looking for answers. Then, even after knowing the truth and being so dishonest, she still decides to let Thomas act out his plan for the Zephyr House. At this point, I knew there was no way Lena could redeem herself in my eyes. I really and truly wanted to slap her for the choices she made and how disgusting she acted. Whoo! That was a big rant to get off my chest but man, I love me a strong and smart heroine and Lena Mattacascar was neither. It was for this reason that this was a big DNF for me, and a two star book. Maybe other readers are not as quick to anger if their heroine has no redeeming qualities, but for me, nuh uh!
The story had a great quick start to it. I loved that it jumped right in and got moving with the idea of the Peculiars and Lena’s quest to visit Scree. The oddity of Lena is shown right away and the characters that she meets are all very charming. Where the story lost me was the fact that Lena is raised to be untrusting and hide her differences, but she quickly loses that nature and starts trusting people faster than I expected. While there was a small bit of steampunk thrown in, it wasn’t enough for me to give that name to the genre for the story. I wish that there was more focus on the Peculiars, but there were only small bits and pieces of those other than Lena. The characters were what drove this story, more than the journey that Lena went on. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
2.5 stars I have a love/hate relationship with Lena in this book, because of all her good intentions she gets her friends and those around her into trouble and then when you think you are ready to write her off she fixes things in a way you are able to forgive her for her wrong doings and keep on enjoying the story that is unfolding in front of you. I love Jimson as a character she is so curios about stuff and fascinated by science and the progress it can bring to others, and I feel that his thirst for knowledge and need to doubt things makes his way of thinking more open to change and easier for him to accept all the ways his world will be twisted during his little adventure. The concepts in this book are interesting, racism, rejecting things we don't understand, equality, but the story doesn't shine as it should mainly because of the hard time you may have connecting with the main character and the way this story takes so long to take off, after about half the book it gets better and really enjoyable but for some it might be a little to late to get into it.
The Peculiars is a unique novel. It’s a Steampunk with dark mystery, suspense, and romance. Also, its main character is a goblinism, which is a totally new kind of paranormal character for me. Maureen Doyle McQuerry has written a fresh, new storyline about goblins, which is new for me I haven’t read about goblins myself. I also like that McQuerry wrote this as a Steampunk, and that she didn't go heavy on all the gadgets. The Peculiars takes place in the time around the 1880's. I enjoyed the historical element that McQuerry brought into this storyline. I love the main character, Lena, along with Jimson. Lena is strong-minded and she will have to learn to think before she acts, which McQuerry does an excellent job of showing Lena learning this through the story. Jimson, I fell in love with. He's funny and gentle, but strong. Jimson is not scared to stand up for his beliefs or the people he cares for. Maureen Doyle McQuerry has written an amazing new Paranormal with goblins and created an incredible paranormal/historical/steampunk world. Lena has just turned eighteen, and her mother gives her a letter from her father who left them when Lena was five years old. But in his letter, he gives Lena her inheritance and a deed to his family’s mine in Scree. She decides to go to Scree to find out about her father's history, to see if he was a goblin. She’s always been told by her mother that her oversized hands and feet are just a birth defect, but she has to find out if she’s a Peculiar. Peculiars are not thought to be human by the government and human society, but are believed to be creatures with no souls, and the government is trying to take the Peculiars’ freedom away so that they can't live among the humans. On the train ride to Knob Knoster, where Lena will hire a guide so she can cross the Knob Knoster border into Scree, she meets Jimson Quiggley. Jimson is on his own adventure to Knob Knoster where he will work for Mr. Tobias Beasley as his librarian. When Jimson meets Lena on the train, you just know he’s already lost his heart to her, but there’s a little problem back home with a girl named Pansy. Jimson's father has already arranged a marriage for Jimson to marry Pansy. I love the romance with Jimson and Lena. These two keep trying to hide their feelings for each other, though I think it was very clear how Jimson feels for Lena. I can't wait till the next book to see more of Lena and Jimson's romance. It just finally did get started at the end of this first book, and this story ends with a very touching scene between them. Peculiars is a fantastic and intriguing dark adventure about Lena, a goblin girl who’s coming to understand who she is, and the fight she will have to faces for her rights as a Peculiars and the rights of all Peculiars. I recommend Peculiars as a fresh new adventure in YA Paranormal.
The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a steampunk fiction set in an alternate late 1800s world. I love steampunk and was immediately drawn to the spectacular cover. Sprinkled with history, steampunk contraptions and strange folk known as Peculiars this novel kept me entertained. The protagonist is Lena Mattacascar and she has always known she was different. Her grandmother never lets her forget. Lena is part Goblin and has just turned eighteen. Her father, who abandoned the family years ago, left her a present for this special occasion. In an envelope she discovers a letter, some money and a deed to a mine in Scree. It is said that Scree is where Peculiars live. Lena sets out by train to Knob Knoster (a fishing town not to far from Scree). Here she hopes to hire a guide, learn more about her father, Peculiars and her own differences. Lena is relieved when the train begins to empty and she can finally relax. Just as she makes herself comfortable, in walks Jimson Quiggley. He is traveling to Knob Knoster to work as a librarian for Tobias Beasley. The two chat about things, and Lena finds him to be sweet. Events on the train, lead Lena to meet the handsome Marshall. His name is Thomas Saltre and he takes an immediate interest in Lena. When Lena arrives in Knob Knoster, she begins to look for a guide to Scree. Her path again crosses those of the Marshall and she finds herself unwittingly headed to the home of Tobias Beasley as a spy. The tale that unfolds was fascinating. I adored Lena and Jimson and found them to be delightful. The romance that develops between them is sweet and genuine. Lena really cannot see anyone having feelings for her or ever finding her attractive. She wonders whether or not she has a soul and wants to know more about her father. She worries that she will become like him. Tobias Beasley was an interesting character, brilliant and nutty. The Marshall, despite his handsome appearance gave me the willies. Other characters such as the cook and missionary sisters gave the tale credibility. The world-building was interesting and I loved the blend of history and fantasy. However, it wasn't as dark or as detailed as I was expecting. This was more of a character driven novel and didn’t have all the gadgets I have come to expect in steampunk tales. While it deals with Peculiars we don’t really get enough information on them and I wanted more back-history. I would have liked to have learned more, and perhaps been given more detail about events. The tale moved at a steady pace and was filled with moments of suspense. McQuerry’s writing was descriptive and I enjoyed her attention to detail. She brought Beasley's home, Spree and the train to life. My favorite part, was the aerocopter. I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, but am hoping a second book comes along.