“The Peculiars” by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Thank you, Maureen Doyle McQuerry, for the three gifts you have given a reader of The Peculiars: an interesting story well told; new, fun words to look up or words used in ways I’m not used to using them; and characters for whom I developed such affection that it made me a little wistful to reach the end of the story.

First, I was drawn into Lena’s adventure right off and was eager to return to see it through whenever I would have to set aside the book. The storyline skirted artfully through what is normal and what is not; through surprises and disappointments; and through failings of the characters and their redemption.  With two of McQuerry’s principal characters at the threshold of adulthood, the conflicts and challenges were universal (that is, as universal as they can be in a steam punk fantasy world) and appropriate for young adult readers.

Second, as for the words, the first one that made me stop and sound it out while enjoying it was – goblinishness.  Meeting it was like taking a bite of a scrumptious dessert in many layers – you know what it is, you know you like it, but it takes a while to taste and get its feel in your mouth. And then there were more words that helped stitch the story to its setting, words like bandylegged, wimple, spumy, riprap, and mullioned. How could I not know these words? How is it they aren’t already friends? Even better than meeting unfamiliar words was discovering McQuerry’s turns of phrase that suited her scenes so well: “contentment was not a familiar companion,” and “Margaret’s words were slippery,” and ”a reverberation of fear”. Lovely, just lovely.

Third and finally, having been drawn in nearly half way through and then unable to extract myself to attend to other should-have-been-more-pressing chores, I finished the story, flipped through to the last page, and read the last words.  While saying a mental farewell to Lena and Jimson and the others, I couldn’t help but wonder if McQuerry has finished the sequel yet, and when would I be able to rejoin the friends and their adventure?