Published: September 22, 2020
Tags: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
| Synopsis From Publisher |
In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley 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), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are 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 misspelt 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, the right-handed bookseller 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.
| Book Review |
I received a complimentary copy of this book from HaperCollins Children’s Books & Katherine Tegan Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
– Content –
I was so excited to see this book come up on NetGalley. I love Nix’s work and there hasn’t really been a book of his that I haven’t enjoyed on some level. This book is no different.
A magical stand-alone to knock your socks off!: First of all, it’s a stand-alone, which seems rare in current times. I hardly come across stand-alones in YA anymore, so I really enjoy Nix continuing to write stand-alones outside of his series books.
Fast-paced, action-packed, and full of magic-wielding fighters who kick ass, and also do a lot of reading: I loved all of it! Any book that markets itself as about books or people who sell/are into books, I’m there. This book didn’t let me down. So much magic is wrapped around the whole writing process, and seeing how the booksellers are magic-wielders who happen to love and revere books? Icing on the cake.
Characters that I want to be friends with: I also really enjoyed all of the characters. Susan is one of those characters you come across who just handles anything that gets thrown at her. I enjoyed watching her take everything in stride, while also being like, “Man, I need a meal and a nap.” I can totally relate. I also liked her two companions to the magic world, Merlin (love the name!) and Vivien, both booksellers, one right-handed, one left-handed (it has to do with the magic). I like how Nix played around with gender roles with Merlin, too. He often cross-dressed and was rather fluid and it was nice to see a character like him in the story.
Anyway, basically, this book is really fun and I enjoyed the content. It was urban-fantasy (a bit Gaiman-esque) and historical fiction and a little touch of romance and it was just perfect.
– Literary Value-
Well-constructed plot: This book, I mean, I was flipping pages! I was drawn in right away and I was taken on such a wild, fun ride. It never got slow, or fell into lulls. The adventure really takes you on a journey and I enjoyed how Nix wove all the details into it, and it felt really cohesive. I never felt bogged-down with the world-building and the story could really just take me away.
The characters, so good!: I’ve already mentioned how much I love the characters, and this is true. I think Nix is a champion of character-building. Each one feels like a whole person, and no one feels like a stereotype or a cookie-cutter character. Even the small, background characters are likeable, interesting, and really add color to the story. It just makes me happy. I wish I could be friends with all of them.
– Entertainment Factor –
I’ve already mentioned that I had fun reading this book, but I’ll say it again: This book is so fun! I know a lot of fantasy can be serious and hard-core, but one of the things about Nix is that he can write some just really one-off, adventurous fantasy stories that, while they have a “big problem that must be solved” going on, they also just feel light and enjoyable. I didn’t feel like I was weighed down with all these terms or ideas to understand the world being built. I could just sit back and experience it all through Susan, and it all made for a really nice read. I’ll definitely be hyping this book for a while.
– Cover Art –
I think the only thing I don’t love about this book is the cover. I mean, I think it could be better. It feels a bit generic to me, which normally doesn’t happen wit Nix’s books, but this one…I think they dropped the ball. It’s got a generally spooky look to it, but the colors are…just not my thing and nothing really seems to suggest what goes on in the story.
I also think this cover looks more like an adult book than YA. I first thought this book was an adult fiction book and was surprised to discover that it was not. I think there isn’t anything on it that would appeal to teens. It’s just a bit dark and vague, nothing to really draw you in. The title takes up most of the cover, which I usually only see on adult novels.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
I really enjoyed this book, the story, the characters, everything. It was full of adventure, magic, and little windows into historic London and nearby parts. I like that Nix connected these various places to his own personal memories of trips to the UK. I loved the setting and seeing the characters interact with magical elements in it. What a rollercoaster of a ride!
Would I Recommend This Book?
Oh, yes, definitely. I really had such a good time reading it. It’s a page-turner and I like that it’s just a stand-alone, you don’t have to commit to a series. It’s a great urban-fantasy, and there are a lot of interesting magical creatures/beings that aren’t quite what you might have seen before. There’s some good humor in there, too, it’s not overly serious and hard-core, like some fantasy can be. If you like fantasy, you’ll probably enjoy this one.