The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Summary from NetGalley:
A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of teen fantasy, Garth Nix.
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.
ARC provided by Harper Collins Children’s Books via NetGalley for an honest review.
I have not read everything by Garth Nix, but the few books I have read I have always loved for their original characters, worlds and stories. This new book is exactly what I would expect from this author and then some. My only disappointment is that it looks like a stand alone, I so want to see more of this world and these wonderful characters.
Susan is such a strong and wonderful character right from the start. She takes everything in stride, and is almost calm when facing the unknown and the crazy things that keep happening to her. She does maybe perhaps take to the new magical world that has been thrust upon her a little too easily, but she has always experienced the world slightly differently so you can see where magic wouldn’t totally surprise her.
Merlin is such a hoot, he is funny and kind and very unique in his approach to life and clothes. So eighties in his choices, it made me smile every time he changed his clothes. He is also brave and clever, but knows when to concede that his sister is better at something than he is. He is a left-handed bookseller, which means he is the fighter and protector of the group.
Vivian is Merlin’s sister and she was just as amazing as the other two. She is a right-handed bookseller which means she does spells and research into the lore that they protect. Her relationship with Merlin was wonderful. I love seeing such loving, yet totally realistic sibling relationships in books.
There is an attraction between Merlin and Susan that could be considered a romance, but it is kept in the back ground and does not overshadow the story as a whole. They both get that survival is more important than romance and so keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves for the most part. But there is some cute flirting that I loved.
The whole plot of the story is so well done. I loved the alternate England that has been built here. There were some pop culture references that I didn’t get as an American reader, but that certainly didn’t diminish my enjoyment. The pacing is fast and the action is well done. The character’s are all nicely fleshed out through out the book, meaning that we are constantly learning new things about them as the book goes on. I would have liked maybe a bit more of an explanation about the whole Booksellers organization. We just get enough to understand it for this story, but I want to know more about them and some of the things they do.
A wonderful new book from this great author. Please give us more of the Left and Right Handed booksellers and this alternative England.