Don't let the blurriness of the cover fool you. I was lucky enough to get a galley of The Peculiars from NetGalley, and I have to say…this book really surprised me. In a fantastic way.
First, I don't know if "Maureen Doyle McQuerry" is a penname or what, but I LOVE that it fits the actual book. Quirky, a little fantastical, part romance novelist/part adventurer, and definitely out of the norm. I've noticed that sometimes a great penname can set you up for what's to come, and this one definitely did that.
I'm not a big fan of reading books off of a screen (no e-readers here--I'm old school, love holding real books in my hands). So, it takes a really great story to keep me coming back to my computer and straining my eyes to read off of either Kindle for PC or Adobe Digital Editions (I prefer the formatting of Adobe so much more, it's not even funny).
The Peculiars kept me coming back.
Eighteen-year-old Lena Mattacascar isn't your typical heroine. No matter how hard she tries to hide them, Lena has the elongated hands and feet of a goblin. The marks of a Peculiar. Gloves and specially-made boots can only conceal so much. In Lena's world, Peculiars--a lawless bunch with strange abnormalities and no souls--are sent to the wilds of Scree to work in the mines. Intent on finding her father, who she believes will have all the answers as to whether or not she is indeed Peculiar, Lena sets out on an adventure. On her journey to Scree, she encounters several odd characters: Jimson Quiggley, a young librarian who instead of shying away from Lena's hands calls her extraordinary; Thomas Saltre, a Marshal who will stop at nothing to find Lena's father; Mr. Beasley, an eccentric inventor with absolutely no eyebrows; and an extraordinary cat named Mrs. Mumbles, who may or may not save the day.
The book was unlike anything I've read. The fact that Lena had such obvious physical deformities set her apart. She had to deal with that, hide that part of herself, every day in a society deadest against Peculiars. Her adventurous spirit, the steampunk/historical atmosphere drew me in.
Despite Lena's age, I'd categorize it as more of a children's adventure than a YA. The reason being there was very little romance--although the little that was included was wonderful. Instead of hot and heavy, it was subtle and heart-warming. I was a big fan of Jimson Quiggley and his infectious enthusiasm J Mumbles and Mr. Beasley were definite favorites, and though Lena made some mistakes, I cared about her. I wanted her to accept herself, to find her courage, which I think she did in the end.
The Peculiars was an enjoyable read. If you're looking for that rare mix of adventure, true historical facts mixed with steampunk fantasy, and a sprinkling of romance on the side, give McQuerry's book a go.