Title: The Peculiars
Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Genre: Young-Adult, Steampunk, Romance
Published: May 1st 2012 by Amulet Books
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.(
I shall begin at our very first impression, the cover. It looks fantastic and extremely different and so it raised high expectations for this story. I was expecting a really intense steampunk novel with a twist. For me, what I got was entirely different and the girl on the front is not the focus of the story. I think the expectation when picking up this book would for it to be centred on the girl on the cover and this disappointed me.
The book is supposedly ‘steampunk’ and there are elements such as talks of inventions and flying machines and lots of tinkering in a laboratory, but we never truly get a feel for the intensity that I feel steampunk needs. We seem to skirt around the genre in this novel and although we have talks of mines, trains and lots of engineered machines I cannot say for me, this equates as steampunk. Since the cover seems to promise steampunk with the cogs on the front, it makes you think that the steampunk aspect will be a strong element of the story. Ultimately, it’s not!
For the actual tale itself, I found it all rather boring. I managed to finish the book, and I suppose that could be concluded as a positive, but throughout reading it all, nothing really exciting happened. We always seemed to be waiting and building for a really intense, exciting moment and we never tipped over that verge to reach it. There were a couple of moments where I thought the story was about to get exciting, but then it seemed to fail in reaching the peak of anticipation. I felt like this story built an awful lot of anticipation up and delivered nothing from the cover to the plot.
Peculiars is an incredibly unique idea and I thought the author could have taken the story in so many different directions, but we seemed to not really learn much about the Peculiars themselves or the types. The title of the novel being “The Peculiars” seems to indicate they will have a strong presence in the story, but for much of the time, we only find they are relegated to a place called Scree.
On a positive note, I thought the whole novel was well-written despite lacking excitement and thrills, it still managed to read well and be well explained. I felt descriptions could have been a little more detailed when characters and new places were first introduced because I found it hard to visualise the places McQuerry was depicting. However she chose to focus on a specific feature of a person or a place and repeat it constantly throughout the book which particularly annoyed me. I felt like these traits were overemphasised to the point that when the character was introduced to a scene, I expected to read the trait and in most cases it was mentioned.
The characters themselves were of huge disappointment! They lacked all life and feeling. Lena is one of the worst female leads I have ever read, she was whiny, stupid and seemingly focused on solely her hands and feet in life and nothing else. Not only that she started out as extremely stuck up and unlikeable, this may have changed across the journey of the story, but I found it impossible to make any emotional connection to her because she didn’t seem to portray any emotions throughout the whole of the story. She lacked the humanity that allows you to really enter a character’s head. I couldn’t even label her a heroine in my view, because she just didn’t do enough to be seen as a heroine. She allowed people to walk all over her and never really saved anybody, she lacked in strength for me.
Jimson was a rather dire male lead. He was concerned and kind, but I think everything failed from there. At first he appeared to be an incredibly stupid man, who then developed an intellect halfway through the book, which didn’t equate to the character we’d first met. He didn’t really become a “hero” and the romance never really reached any spectacular point because he seemed to dawdle. Jimson failed to take control as the romantic interest and he lacked any sustenance for me to really think he’s a man I’d want. When reading a romance novel, I want to really be able to fall for the male lead and I just didn’t with Jimson, I felt very indifferent about him.
Overall, this book promises a lot, delivers very little if anything and was a waste of my time. If you want a steampunk novel, don’t pick this up. If you want romance, don’t be expecting a lot and don’t let the cover delude you even if it is pretty. This book gets its rating because it was well written and I managed to finish it, otherwise my enjoyment factor was very little!
*Received from the publishers via NetGalley for review*
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