The Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann, was published in 2012 by Greenwillow.
Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged. In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings—Peculiars—and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them. One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley—Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed. First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish…and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.
Probably my favorite part of The Peculiar was the nice sense of a complex, developed world. I really enjoyed the interactions of faery and human, the way history was changed because of the inclusion of faery, and the vaguely steampunk feel to the world as a whole. I am suitably impressed that Bachmann, who was eighteen when this was published, managed to develop it so well.
I am also impressed at the sophistication of writing that Bachmann achieves. Unlike Christopher Paolini, who was also young when Eragon was published, Bachmann doesn’t shove large words down your throat. The writing could have been better polished, true, but I thought Bachmann did really well regardless.
I do wish, as with Eragon, that Bachmann had sat on the story for a couple of years, because I really think with a little more time this world could have been really impressive with an impressive plot to go alongside it. As it stands now, the plot is fairly formulaic, not very surprising, and a bit plodding at times. And while I loved Jelliby, I thought Bartholomew’s sections were tedious (perhaps due to the writing). I also thought the whole deal with Hettie could have been set up much better, as I was very confused at a certain point when all the characters seemed to be adding up clues in their heads and I had no idea what those clues were or where they had appeared. Overall, the foreshadowing could have been much better handled throughout the whole book, really.
Also, the back cover of the book spoils something important, so beware of that.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Bartholomew began to run. He was going to summon a faery. He had to. It was clear as rain to him now. A house faery could tell him what the ring of mushrooms was, where it led, and why the little creatures in the wings had written on him. It could keep them all safe, and bring them luck. And it could be his friend. A real friend that didn’t just wave at him through windows.
I’ll make everything better.
The Peculiar’s world impressed me, especially when I found out how the age of the author. I do think, however, that this book would have been much better if it had “fermented” for a couple of years, as the writing needed polishing, the plot was simple and formulaic, and the foreshadowing clues were clear to the characters but not at all to me. A decent debut for an eighteen-year-old, but it could have been much better with time.
You can buy this here: The Peculiar