Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQueery: Book Review

The Peculiars 
Author: Maureen Doyle McQueery
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2012
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age level: Young Adult, 12 up
Pages: 368

I love a good adventure and McQueery certainly does a good job of that in her recent book, The Peculiars. This is steampunk fiction fantasy, a sub-genre of science fiction that places readers in an alternative 19th century world fascinated with steam-powered technology and its machines.

Peculiars are a people who have been disenfranchised from the rest of society based on their unusual physical defects. (Hitler's assault on people with birth and mental defects during WWII comes to mind). As a result, peculiars are often forced into hiding and must fend for themselves. Eighteen-year-old Lena Mattacascar struggles with the realization that she too may be a peculiar. She has been told she only has a birth defect, but the signs of goblinism are obvious . . . extra long fingers and feet, and one member of the family, Nana Crane, is certain she is a peculiar. If this is true, then it is also true Lena is without a soul.

Lena has also been told that her father was a peculiar. He left the family years ago when she was young and is thought to be in Scree, a northern wilderness where both peculiars and convicts live. It is a dangerous, unruly region, but on her eighteenth birthday Lena leaves home to find him. Enroute she meets Jimson Quiggley, a young librarian who has been hired by inventor Mr. Beasley who lives in a town on the Scree border. 

Mr. Beasley meets Lena and offers to hire her until she can find safe passage over the border. What she doesn't know is that Mr. Beasley has been secretly helping peculiars, including a woman with angel wings she soon meets. When the town's law enforcer Marshal Saltre discovers Mr. Beasley's operation, Lena and Jimson escape with him into Scree in Mr. Beasley's steam powered aerocopter.

Chased by Marshal Saltre and random bounty hunters, Lena is introduced to the world of peculiars and comes to terms with her identity, and that of her father’s. Without giving the plot away, as a reader I am disappointed in the fate of Lena’s father, since he was the main reason she left home. However, Lena is about to embark on a journey of leadership and who knows what else. If McQueery plans a sequel, and I hope she does, there is more to discover in this world and for Lena to overcome.

Overall, there is much to love in The Peculiars, including Jimson who becomes romantically involved with Lena. Mr. Beasley’s cat Mrs. Mumbles is adorable. Cat lovers will like her feisty temperament and loyalty.  

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl


  1. Your review makes it sound like a "must read." Ahh, so many great books out there.

  2. This is a great review! I'll go check it out.

  3. I've never read a steam punk. This sounds like it would be a good first one to try.

  4. Interesting premise, but I'm not much into steampunk. Maybe someday...

  5. I've yet to venture into steampunk territory, and I agree this does sound like a good one to try. Thanks for sharing the review!

  6. I enjoyed this book, too! Steampunk is loads of fun.

  7. I haven't read anything yet that would be called steampunk....and I wasn't even sure how to define the genre. Now that I've read The Peculiars synopsis, I'm ready to jump in.


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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.