The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Hardcover, 354 pgs.
Published May 1st, 2012 by Amulet Books
Description from Goodreads:
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.
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!
Disclosure: I purchased this book myself. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.