Saturday, 2 June 2012

YA Book Review: 'The Peculiars' by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

The Peculiars
by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Published: May 1st, 2012
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 354

Cover Art

Yes yes yes, everyone loves this cover. Wings on lovely blonde girls back= eye catching. I get that. However, this cover has nothing to do with the main character of the story or most of the story itself...the winged back is a very tiny and unimportant part! Not cover worthy. I dislike a deceptive cover...I much prefer the cover I have which has a drawing of the main character in a wilderness with 'peculiar' people walking in the mist behind her; it is much more reflective of the book's content.

Plot Synopsis

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 Rating:

First Line:
''There's no mistaking what your father was, not when you've got hands and feet like those"
Pocket-Size Review
I found this book disappointing. It did not deliver what it promised and was slow going. However, the writing is good, the main character is likeable and the 1800's setting is rather nice.

Highs: Well written, likeable characters, a bit of library porn and manor house loveliness and the misty foreboding lands. 
Lows: Repetitive, dull, misleading cover/blurb.


This book really does not deliver what it promises. I went into it thinking I was going to get a whole array of gloriously weird and wonderful characters and personalities, and find out about the mysterious wilderness of Scree where these people who are different are being extradited. Instead, what I got was 90% the main character working in a library wondering and worrying about whether she is peculiar or not, and 10% actually in Scree itself. It is unbelievably slow paced and doesn't actually get anywhere. There is no mystery and no build-up; we know at the start pretty much what we know at the end. Also, are we really expected to believe that if you had huge, double-length finger with an extra joint that wearing gloves would hide them? This is what the author seems to believe and it niggled me the entire way through.

I did like some aspects of this book though, hence the generous three star rating. Although it annoyed me that it was not at all how it was marketed, and the cover with the winged girl is SO gratuitous and pointless considering it is such a small part of the story and not the main focus at all, I could get over that annoyance and find things to like. I liked Lena's defect with her hands and feet. I like the thought of huge spidery hands with long, thin fingers...I don't know why. I also thought that the writing was pretty decent- no major complaints there. I liked the manor house that Lena goes to stay in and the huge, ancient library because I just love manor houses and libraries! Particularly ones that you are able to get lost in.

I felt that this was a book which I would have enjoyed more if I had read it in winter. The main character kept describing the cold, crisp October air and the glimmering snow and, due to the face that here in the UK we have been having glorious sunshine and very hot weather all week, it was hard to get into the mindset of a wintery book. Not the authors fault at all, but I feel this book should have been published in the Autumn rather than the Spring. 

I have to mention that cat Mrs Mumbles. I really, REALLY love cats and when a cat is introduced into a story I am instantly concerned for its welfare. I know, it's weird. It does ruin stories for me though and hinders my enjoyment (I had the same problem regarding 'Tenterhooks' the kitten in 'The Uninvited Guests' by Sadie Jones. I loved the book but the kitten's welfare got in the way of parts of the story for me!) Mrs Mumbles is a very unique cat so she is more than able to take care of herself, and I would love to have a cat like her! Very loyal!

Overall, I enjoyed the writing of this book and I thought the characters were well developed, but they were quite one dimensional. Certain characters whom I was suspicious of in the beginning of the novel fell flat and didn't seem to become anything in particular, which disappointed me. I like me some dun dun derrrr I am secretly evil moments and that just didn't happen. I doubt I will read this book again and I will probably have forgotten all about it very soon.

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: 'Geek Love' by Katherine Dunn is a book on my shelf that is in the same vein as this one; about peculiar people/ 'circus freaks'. I will read it soon and hopefully it will be better than this one.
Three Words to Describe this Book: Disappointing, Cosy, Descriptive


  1. Great review! I hate it when book covers don't accurately reflect the story inside, it seems a little cynical and unnecessary to make it seem like something it's not.

  2. Have you heard of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"? Parts of this sound oddly similar (almost as if the author copied). Very strange. And funnily enough, that book also had a rather misleading cover!

    1. I've read 'Miss Peregrine's' and actually liked that one! I agree that it is similar in a few ways but I think Miss Peregrine's is much better and more magical but I definitely agree about the cover- I thought it was going to be much creepier! x

  3. I DNFd this one. I just couldn't get past the boredom. Up until the part where I set it down for the last time, the only good thing that had happened was the train robbery. According to a couple of friends, that was the only real excitement in the entire book. Not at all sorry that I didn't finish.

    And you're so totally right that the book didn't deliver on that fantastic cover!

  4. We are totally the same about dogs. My husband about any animal, really. We can watch a move where all sorts of people are getting tortured and murdereed, but as soon as something bad happens to a dog or cat, he's like,m"awwww."

  5. I actually don't like the cover at all, it looks like it was thrown together and I think it's a big ugs, but I must be in the minority!

    I wasn't expecting to read good things about this book so I'm not surprised by your review but I appreciate that you were able to find positives in what sounds like quite a disappointing story.

    Also, I totally know what you mean about animals in stories. I am always dreading that moment when the author chooses to kill it off or allow it to be harmed and it makes me feel sick.

  6. I have heard some mixed things about this book so I'm still holding off judgment. At first glance it looks like a book that I would really enjoy, but I don't really like it when characters fall flat. Thanks for sharing your honest opinions.

    Great review!

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