by Stefan Bachmann
First sentence: "Feathers fell from the sky."
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Imagine a world in which faeries came through a portal, waging war against the humans, destroying most of England, including the entire city of Bath.
Imagine that the cost of this is that the faeries are trapped in our world, for hundreds of years.
Imagine a world in which half-breeds (half human, half faerie) are despised and hanged.
Imagine a half-breed boy, Bartholomew, who lives in hiding with his sister in the city of New Bath, scraping by an existence while his mother (his faerie father left years ago) tries to make ends meet.
Imagine a faerie so desperate to return to the "other world" that he's willing to kill half-breeds to make it happen.
Imagine a man, without ambition or direction, who manages to get caught up in all this, and ends up hanging on for dear life.
And you will pretty much have imagined "The Peculiar."
I have to admit that the cover was underwhelming. It kind of looks like clockwork chickens, or something of that sort. But a woman at work read it and liked it enough that I picked it up, just to see what it's about. And honestly? Steampunk fairies equals win. You have traditional Victorian steampunk (hence the mechanical bird, which makes more sense after reading the book), crossed with some pretty spooky faerie stories; a hero that's both accidental and intentional -- he's out to save his sister from her nasty fate; and a bumbling adult who's more endearing than annoying. I couldn't put this one down. Sure, the plot's probably a bit confusing -- especially near the end -- and maybe even a bit predictable (okay, it's not hard to figure out who the bad guy is), but there are some nice surprises, and an ending that both resolves the plot as well as leaving a thread for a sequel to follow.
I probably would have been turned off if I had read the author bio before reading the book: Bachmann is one of those wonderkids (he's 18) who comes off as insufferably pretentious in his author bio. But, you know what? This worked. It's an original idea (at least that I know of), and it's a well-written story.
Which makes me wonder just what this kid will come out with next.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I've been asked
to make sure y'all know this is my opinion only, and
not that of the panel.)