‘The Peculiar’ by Stefan Bachmann Is a Knockout First Novel Filled With Whimsy and Suspense

“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.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann’s riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.”

(description from book).

After I finished reviewing Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, I mentioned my love of the book to author Christopher Paolini. After mutual gushing for a bit he replied with, “Next up you need to read The Peculiar.” This was another book he’d blurbed, and, as his tastes haven’t steered me wrong yet, I got on the bandwagon. Enter newbie author Stefan Bachmann, who is barely out of his teens, and is an extremely talented classical musician and composer in addition to book-writer. He managed to craft a story that is sopping with suspense, intrigue, and magical elements, and was, at its core, so good it was hard to put down.

The first thing I noticed about Stefan’s book was the excellent prose. The voice of the book feels British to this American, with classic, witty phrases that lend the book a timeless feel.  But the story itself quickly sucked me in, and I was drawn into a gritty alternative fae-drenched England, where there was a lot going on in the undercurrent.  He really brought the world to life, showing the vivid dividing lines between the classes along with the habits and manners of Victorian England. Add in the Steampunk elements, and it was a vibrant and dramatic setting for the happenings of the characters.

I also really enjoyed how the story alternated between two main characters, Arthur and Bartholomew: one a Peculiar, one a human; one a child, one a man. Through them I experienced the different views of the world, and having insight into all sides of the story made it a much richer tale. I haven’t read middle-grade in a while, so it was also a nice change to shift to a protagonist that wasn’t dealing with teenage angst. Bartholomew’s innocence was both endearing and frustrating, but I really got inside of his head and couldn’t fault his curious nature, despite the danger of it.

Bachmann leaves the book on a serious cliffhanger, down to the last page or two, and I found myself staring dumbly at the back of the book wanting to know what exactly just happened. I will be looking forward to book two, because, to solve the problems he’s presented, the author is going to have to bring the story to a whole new level.

Fans of middle grade or YA that like fae-based stories with lots of suspense will gobble this one up. The Peculiar was a lovely book that fed my imagination with a nice balance of whimsy and suspense. Definitely check it out!

The Peculiar hit stores today, September 18, 2012.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: