Title: The Peculiars
Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry
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."
My Opinion: Number one, I have to say how much I LOVE the cover of this book! It's gorgeous and made me even more eager to read this book than I already was. I am already a huge steampunk fan, and was very interested to learn more about the Peculiars themselves, the "people whose unusual characterstics made them unacceptable to modern society," with modern society here meaning the late 1800s. I couldn't wait to hear their stories.
Lena has always had very long fingers with an extra knuckle on them and thin hands, as well as long, thin feet, which she tried to hide from the time she was very little by wearing gloves and learning to tuck her feet under her dress when she was sitting so no one would notice her. Her mother always said they were a birth defect and she was made to feel embarrassed and different by her own grandmother. She grew up hearing stories about the Peculiars, who some said didn't exist at all, and the government itself says have no soul so they are not even considered to be human. They all have some sort of unusual physical characteristic, and though Lena never talks to anyone about it, she is afraid that her hands and feet are signs of goblinism, which scares her to death because she believes her own father, who left her and her mother when she was 5, was a goblin, and goblins are not known for being nice, polite beings that contribute to society. Instead they are known for being thieves and wanderers, and Lena doesn't want this to be her future. Surprisingly, on her 18th birthday her mother gives her a letter from her father in which he leaves her an inheritance and the deed to the family mine in the town of Scree, which unfortunately is known to be the home of Peculiars and very scary creatures; basically not a friendly place to visit at all. I loved that Lena sucked up her courage and decided to go find her father in Scree and get some answers to the questions that have plagued her all of her life.
Along the way, on the train ride to Knob Knoster, where Lena plans to hire a guide to get her into Scree using the money from her inheritance, she meets a young man who is also traveling to Knob Knoster, to be the librarian for a very eccentric inventor, which excites him to no end. The young man is named Jimson Quiggley, and the eccentric inventor is a Mr. Tobias Beasley. Unfortunately, the train is set upon by thieves, who steal Lena's inheritance, but Lena is lucky enough to find work with the same Mr. Beasley that Jimson is working for. She loves her work and her employer, but when asked to spy on him by someone she thinks is her friend, she agrees, which I can't say I liked, but she is nothing if not flawed, which makes her a much more interesting character than someone who always makes the right decisions and lives with no regrets!
Although I loved the world building, the inventions, and in particular, the descriptions of the Peculiars that Lena meets along her way and on her journeys, which definitely don't end with working for Mr. Beasley, I have to say that the pacing itself was off for me. I was excited to read the book, but the beginning and middle really dragged on sometimes, which I've read was a problem for others as well according to their reviews, but I was glad that I hung in there because the last third of the book or so was full of action and suspense and danger and all the good things that you hope to find in a story!
In summary, although the pacing was off and the book dragged on in places, when the pacing finally picks up, it is a very exciting ride that I would recommend to lovers of YA books with steampunk, adventure and action elements. The world of the Peculiars is like no other world that I have ever read about, and given the number of books I have read in my time, that's saying a lot! I give this book 4 stars, with one star taken off due to the slow pace at times. But the character growth and the action at the end earned it the 4 stars :D
I received a copy of this book free of charge through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.