I have been reading again. The reasons I stopped are many and varied but mostly boil down to Dad In Hospital, Mom Needed Help. Dad is out of the hospital but while he was in, siblings from around the globe, including the youngest who lives in Japan, crowded into Dad's hospital room and pestered him until he gave in and got better. There, Dad! That's what happens when you have so many kids.
Mom still needs help, though. So, I need to read. That helps me to help her.
for Middle Grade readers
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann. I dragged my feet about reading this because books by people who have not yet reached 20 are occasionally over-hyped. No fear, here. This is a soundly written book, an original and well-drawn world, and a mesmerizing combination of fantasy and steam punk.
The last time I read a book written by a teen-ager and lauded as superb, I spent the first chapter listing all the sources for many of the ideas and phrases in the book. Hmmph, I said Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Prydain, Rings again, Sword of.. you get the picture.
The setting of The Peculiar did remind me of the Bartimaeus Trilogy. But the similarities ended there. It is impossible to write a fantasy book without some reference to other fantasy. Bachmann's Victorian London, drenched in acrid smog, is populated by human and fay alike. Children of mixed parentage, changelings, are hated. Most of the fay are pressed into servitude to human masters. The Sidhe live in the upper classes giving little thought to lower class fay.
Bartholomew Kettle and his little sister, Hettie, are changelings. And they know enough to stay hidden. Hettie, with her tree branch hair, would be executed in a trice. But when several changeling children are found dead and mutilated, Bartholomew sees something that may be a clue to their murders.
Meanwhile, a young member of Parliament wanders down the wrong hall looking for the lavatory and stumbles on who knows what? He certainly doesn't. He's not curious either, just intensely uncomfortable about knowing too much. And what he knows throws him into great peril.
Their paths cross and the way it happens is clever and well constructed. The pace moves from impatient waiting to heart pounding.
The ending might as well have a "Tune in Next..." banner printed across it. The reader is left standing on a precipice or tumbling off a speeding train or sitting there with mouth wide open.
Now, we just have to wait for the next exciting episode.