Review of The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Posted April 18, 2012 by Kara in Uncategorized / 26 Comments

Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: May 1st, 2012
Pages: 354
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk
Source: NetGalley
**As always, I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.**

The Peculiars

This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance. On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

This book was almost a DNF for me. But I persevered through and finished. And man it wasn’t easy. The plot was slow-moving, the protagonist was too stupid to live, and honestly, I was just bored to tears. When your only likable character is the cat, you know you have problems. Touted as steampunk, The Peculiars was barely steampunk. There were a few steam inventions, some gears, and an airship. That was the extent of the steampunk. So if you are looking for a vivid steampunk setting, look elsewhere. 

The chapter titles spoil the chapter before you even start reading. Lena Plans an Escape? Bounty Hunters? Why thank you for telling me that there will be bounty hunters chasing after Lena in this chapter. I didn’t want to be surprised at all. Really? Really? What was the author, editor, publisher, etc. thinking? DUH guys. Don’t spoil your chapters for the reader. 

This book had so much potential. But nothing came together. The characters had no personality, and what personality they did have was unlikable. Lena was a complete Mary Sue. And she was a moron on top of that. She couldn’t do anything right and she had no confidence in herself whatsoever. At one point she said she believed she had no soul and wanted to die. I’m not down with characters who just give up like that. 

The next frustrating thing was that the opening chapters were uhhh-mazingg. A train with criminal shenanigans on the way to a mysterious town at the edge of an untamed land? Too cool. Everything that happened after the train? Fail. I simply did not care about anything. The book did enough to just barely hold my interest, but I was nowhere close to loving what I was reading. Instead, the plot was clunky, it dragged, and ended up being more tedious than most things I have read lately. A shame because it had so much potential. I know I already said that. But it needs to be repeated. 

The other thing that needs to be repeated? The only likable character was the cat, Mrs. Mumbles. Mrs. Mumbles was awesome. And she was basically just a cat. I know I love animals, but still. That should tell you something about this book. Every time she came into a scene I found myself smiling. And when she wasn’t in a scene I am sure there was a scowl on my face. Because the rest of the characters were practically unbearable. Jimson and Mr. Beasley were dull. The author kept telling me what Jimson and Mr. Beasley were like, but I just couldn’t find a personality anywhere. And I already mentioned Lena. She kept doing stupid thing after stupid thing. I’m afraid you have to make your protagonist a little bit redeemable or your entire story will collapse. And it did. Lena was a terrible main character.

I have to give the author a fistbump for some quotes that I absolutely loved.

“How do you know what God’s design was? I am Peculiar. Maybe it’s people like you who are the mistake! Maybe God’s a Peculiar.”

And this one too.

What do my hands and feet have to do with who I am? I don’t know who I am. But do you know who you are? Does anyone really? What makes a decent person? Does being the same as everyone else mean being better than other people or does it just make it easier to look down your nose at them? This was from Lena’s argument with a missionary worker. Yes. A missionary worker. I will leave it up to you to interpret these quotes and how you might feel they apply to real life.

Now that I am finished with The Peculiars, I think I can say that this isn’t a terrible book. But I also don’t think it was a good one either. My main issue was the completely moronic protagonist. I can’t do stupid characters. The storytelling was decent. The writing was superb. But the plot itself? Meh. Definitely not bad enough for a one star rating, but definitely not good enough for a three either. Someone might like this book. I already see some that do. But it wasn’t for me. I didn’t care for it much at all.

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26 responses to “Review of The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

  1. I hadn’t heard of this one. I’m not the hugest fan of steampunk, but it doesn’t really sound like this is much of one. I don’t mind characters I don’t love but if the MC is moronic then that would deter me. Though I do love animals that are entertaining ala Grimalkin from The Iron Fey. But if this is the only likable character, well, maybe it’s not enough.

    Thanks for the insightful review. I’m not big on revealing chapter titles either, fortunately they often go unnoticed when I’m reading.

    Is this a series? Maybe I’ll wait to check this out until after a few more books are out.

    • Rachel, I actually think this one is a standalone. Okay, and Grimalkin is awesome. Mrs. Mumbles isn’t QUITE that awesome, but I did like her.

      This is definitely steampunk-lite. The MC is moronic, but she does redeem herself at the end a little. For me, it was too little too late, but maybe not for you.

      It sounds like you might like it actually. You might want to give this one a try.

  2. I checked my local library data base and was happy and surprised to find they’d ordered 12 copies of the book. I’m the first to place a hold on them when they arrive.

    Thanks for making me aware of this interesting book.

  3. I enjoyed it..but you are completely right..this had a smidge of Steampunks and i really wanted to know more about the Peculiars..Great review!

    • When I read a steampunk book, I want steampunk. I want to be immersed in a really cool world. This fell flat to me. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m actually glad to hear it is finding an audience elsewhere. It’s not a bad book, I was just really let down.

  4. The cover for this really puts me off, I can’t stand it and now your review confirms that I do not want to read this, congrats on finishing!

    Also, I’ve seen chapter titles that are big spoilers before, it’s crazy!

  5. You know, I normally don’t try to push through books I hate. But with this one, it kept me hanging on. I kept hoping it would get better, and then it would hook me with something small that I had to see through until the next chapter. It kept doing this and it never did get better. Sneaky author.

    The cover is creepy, but surprisingly does not play a really large part in the book at all. So don’t let that stop you.

  6. Amy

    I have this one coming up on my list pretty soon, like 4 books away… I am really nervous about it now. This is the first review I have read for it. Keeping my fingers crossed that I enjoy it. Thanks for the great and honest review!

  7. Shoot! I had high hopes for this one! For me, there’s nothing worse than being bored while reading. I like to be fascinated, happy, pissed off, in tears or any number of other things. But not bored. I think I’ll pass on this one, there are so many other amazing books out there I want to read!

  8. I am reading this one right now and I’m about 30% through and you’re right, it’s so slow! And I don’t like any of the characters either.. Jimson is annoying and the Marshall has a freaking handlebar mustache. Mrs.Mumbles is a dear though. <3 Lena is a twit. And yes yes yes the chapter titles suck all the fun out of reading. I’m going to power through this one, we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the review!

    P.S. New follower here! *waves* Nice to meet you. 🙂

  9. Anonymous

    This book has gotten several 5 star reviews. I thought it was awesome. The character dev was great and the use of language was poetic. Unlike most genre novels, I’d almost consider this a literary novel. There is a great review on — and I had to agree with them. This is the first steampunk I’ve ever encountered that integrated the genre with the historical era. Who knew there was some actual steampunk tech back in the 1800’s. Google “Girandoni Air Rifle” if you don’t believe me. Kara — sorry to hear you didn’t like it. Perhaps some zombies would have helped you stay engaged…

    • *slow applause* Well done anon. Not only is your comment much like a broken pencil, but rather than just say you didn’t agree with the review you threw in a snide insult. Congrats. You’re a moron. Not only have you come onto a review, that I actually think is very well written considering Kara is a hobby reviewer, with what looks like the express intention of being deliberately contrary, but you make sly remarks that maybe the reviewer would prefer it if it had zombies. I’m sorry but who exactly are you to make that assumption? Maybe if the book were better written then Kara would have enjoyed it more, maybe she didn’t like that the “use of language was poetic”. There is a myriad different reasons for someone to not like a book. But you coming onto someone elses review space, on their goddamned blog, and not even having the stones to apply a handle or your name? I’m sorry you’re a troll whore with about as much backbone as an earth worm.

      Great review Kara keep up the good work.

    • Thank you for your comment. I am not the only one that has written a critical review of this book, so I think your opinion is one of the uncommon ones. Like I said in my review, a few inventions do not make a steampunk novel. And the zombie comment was unnecessary. Stay friendly here in the future or I will start to delete comments. My space, my rules.

  10. Thanks to your review and a couple of other ones, I decided to decline this on NetGalley. It seems like all of the reviewers with similar taste to mine agreed that this was a great idea, but boring. I have enough in my queue without being slowed down by a boring book.

    Thanks for the review. Also, Anonymous up there be cray. It’s one thing to say that you liked a book (or didn’t like it) in response to someone’s review, but you don’t have to be a dick about it.

  11. Ems

    I DNFd this one. I couldn’t handle it once Lena got off the train. I completely agree that just about every good thing happened on that train. I gave up long before Mrs. Mumbles ever came into the picture. I kind of wish that I’d stuck it out just a little longer to meet her!

    Sadly, the lack of any discernible plot after the train killed it for me. I’m not terribly sorry that I didn’t finish.

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