by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
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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.
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.
I recommend The Peculiars to fans of paranormal adventures. If you haven’t read a steampunk novel, this would be a good book to start. The Peculiars deals with the adventures of a goblin girl, as she tries to figure out her past, present and future. Sprinkled with history and a dash of romance it offers a delightful afternoon read.