Monday, December 7, 2020

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London - Garth Nix

 

Title: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Author: Garth Nix

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2020 (Hardcover)

Length: 393 pages

Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy

Started: December 1, 2020

Finished: December 3, 2020

Summary:

From the inside cover:

In a slightly alternative London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringly might be able to help her, but Susan doesn't get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. 

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones). With the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), he belongs to an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world - in addition to running several bookshops. 

Susan's search for her father begins with her mother's possibly misremembered or misspelled surnames, a reading-room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms. 

Merlin has a quest of his own: to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan's. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New. 

In this pulse-pounding and laugh-out-loud expedition to the world of magical booksellers, Garth Nix crafts a unique fantasy that blurs the boundaries between reality and mythic legend. 

Review:

I've read Garth Nix's novels quite regularly since my teenaged years, so I'm always up for something new from him. This newest novel seemed quite appealing as both a bookstore-lover and a lefty. 

In an alternate imagining of London in 1983, 18-year-old Susan Arkshaw arrives before the start of her  fall term as an arts student to search for the father she never knew. When she approaches Frank Thringly, an old acquaintance of her mother's, she becomes caught up in a whirlwind of events concerning the world she knows, the Old World, and the governing body of Booksellers (left and right-handed) that keep the two from mixing. 

This story is a very fun, engaging read. It's big on plot and moves quickly. It's not a very deep story though, and doesn't really get into any depth in terms of character development, which I would've liked to see for Susan and Merlin.

Merlin makes up for any deficits in depth though, he's a great source of witty comic relief, and as a gender-fluid character, a welcome addition to diversity in YA fiction (especially for a story set in the 80s).

Recommendation:

A fun romp, but a little lacking in depth, so for some readers this might be a book to borrow rather than buy. 

Thoughts on the cover:

I love the colour scheme of golden yellow and blue/black/grey, it makes for a gorgeous cover.

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