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Book review: ‘Peculiars’ an unusual historical-fantasy story

June 4, 2012

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“The Peculiars” by Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a slightly … peculiar book, for lack of a better term.

Peculiars are essentially goblins, but they look very similar to humans.

The government in this alternative 1800s novel is in the midst of a huge crackdown on Peculiars, just like every government worth its salt has done in the past. The government believes that Peculiars have violent tendencies and no soul, and are just an overall bad influence on society.

Lena Mattacascar, our lovely protagonist, has an extra joint in her unusually long hands and feet. Her father was a Peculiar, which leads Lena to believe that she is half Peculiar.

When Lena turns 18, she goes to Scree, where all the people suspected of being Peculiar are sent, to find her father. On train to Scree, she meets a young man named Jimson Quiggley, who is going to work as a librarian for Mr. Beasley, an inventor, in the town of Knoster, which borders Scree.

In addition to Jimson, Lena also meets some unsavory characters, such as the marshal Thomas Saltre, who wants Lena to work as a sort of double agent for him. Lena does as she’s expected for a while, but as she learns what a great person Mr. Beasley is, she starts to feel guilty.

After an unfortunate turn of events, Lena, Jimson, Mr. Beasley and his housekeeper’s daughter Merilee must escape Knoster, and the only place for fugitives from “justice” to go is Scree.

By now, the reader has reached the climax, at which point things start to get very interesting. Before the climax, I guess I liked “The Peculiars” once I cajoled myself into picking up the book, but it was a little hard. By the time the characters decided they were going to Scree, I actually wanted to read, and the further along I got, the more I enjoyed this book.

Lena gets herself into quite a bit of trouble in Scree because she makes some impetuous decisions. I found the ending pretty interesting — it’s not happy per se, but it is very optimistic and hints that good things happen after the book ends.

My opinion on this book was very mercurial while I was reading. I could be negative and say that the beginning wasn’t very good — the good parts aren’t until later on — or I could be optimistic and say that it gets better and better with every chapter!

I’m also not much for fantasy — except for Harry Potter, of course! — so maybe I can’t write a fully impartial review. However, this book was set in the late 1800s. There aren’t tons of historical references, but I found the few that were there to be interesting.

If you like both fantasy and history, “The Peculiars” is definitely the book for you — especially if you are age 12 or older.

— Naomi Grant just finished her freshman year at Free State High School.

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