Review: It’s a Magic, Mystery, Post-Apocalyptic Extravaganza!

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The Peculiar (#1) by Stefan Bachmann

Summary (from Goodreads):

Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings–Peculiars–and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley–Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann’s riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

Review:

The Peculiars is a refreshing new look at the fantasy/fairy tale/steampunk genre. While the story takes place in the large, well known metropolis of London, it is inhabited by a mixture of humans, magical creatures and automatons. It is this world where magic clashes with the ‘normal’ that makes the book special.

The plot is fast moving – there’s not much time to catch your breath from the fear and suspense that begins the novel to the tragic, but hopeful ending that leaves one wanting the second installment. What is refreshing about this novel is that the story is not focused only on one particular character. The plot is told from the perspective of multiple voices, both adult and child, which is a refreshing change from the standard fantasy/fairy-tale genre.

Overall, I enjoyed this immensely and cannot wait to begin the second installment, The Whatnot. Highly recommended.

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The Watcher in the Shadows (Niebla #3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Summary (from Goodreads):

 An enigmatic toymaker who lives as a recluse in an old mansion, surrounded by the fantastical beings he has created to escape his solitude…Strange lights that flicker through the mist from an abandoned lighthouse…An eerie figure that watches from behind the curtains of a locked room and holds a terrifying secret…A sinister presence that lurks deep within the forest and has already claimed a life…These are the elements of a mystery that will bind young Irene to Ismael during one magical summer spent in the Blue Bay, when her mother takes a job as housekeeper to the eccentric toymaker, Lazarus Jann. For Cravenmoore is a place haunted by the shadows of the past…

Review:

Zafon is a master of suspense and he brings this to his novels aimed at the YA (Young Adult) audience. Even though this novel is meant for younger audiences, it is still rich in description, suspense, drama and emotion. The characters, especially Lazarus Jann, are both believable and larger than life (if that makes sense) placing them at the center of the story and of the reader’s attention.

I enjoy Zufon’s novels, especially because of his ability to weave reality with magic in a believable manner. If you enjoy a good adventure that will leave you breathless, then this one is recommended.

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Pure (#1) by Julianna Baggott

Summary (from Goodreads):

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

Review:

First and foremost, I have to say that I could not put the book down once I began reading. Describing the book as ‘good’ does not do it – the characters, the plot, the writing – justice. Yes, it is a YA book where a group of teenagers are destined to save mankind. However, what makes this YA different is its gritty, frightening and unflinching description of the horrors of  surviving in a world where everything is out to get everything else. I don’t know what else to say without giving too much away. So, I will end with: recommended.

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