The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

The Peculiars
By Maureen Doyle McQuerry
354 Pages
Published by Amulet Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

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.

So lately I’ve been getting more into steampunk and I think I’m finally understanding exactly what in the hell it’s all about –  in other words, what qualifies as steampunk. I was honestly clueless for a while. And in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t think I’d be particularly into it. So was I right or wrong? Well, depends on the book.

As far as The Peculiars go, I feel kind of in the middle of it. There were things that I liked – namely, all of the cool machines and the world building. And then there were things that I didn’t like: first and foremost, the characters. And for me, that’s usually a problem.

Lena starts off as pretty tough to like. She’s kind of blah and she’s very insecure. I suppose her reasons are understandable, but her continued obsession over whether or not she was afflicted with goblinism and her constant hiding of her hands became kind of tiresome after a while. And she just did the absolutely most stupid things. Just a complete idiot, not to mention a snitch and a backstabber. Just dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. And the Marshall? Please. He did everything short of tying a damsel to the railroad tracks and twirling his mustache like some kind of old-timey villain.  I did like Jimson Quiggley a little better. He certainly had more likeable traits but his hyperactivity…oy. Take it down a notch.

One thing that I did like is that I think it said quite a bit about how people who are different or deviate from the norm are treated. It was a nice bit of social commentary there, whether it was intentional or not (and I’d give the benefit of the doubt and say that it probably was). The writing itself was also good in spite of my not really liking the characters.

Ultimately the book just didn’t connect with me, although I did like it better the further along I got. I would say it might be a good read for people who are really into steampunk or who don’t have the same “if I don’t like the characters it ruins the whole book for me” issues that I have.


Leave a comment


  1. I’m not real sure about the whole steampunk thing either. I haven’t read anything yet, but it just hasn’t really appealed to me. Maybe I’ll try something sometime. Any recs?

  2. Giselle

     /  July 13, 2012

    Blah!! Not sure I’d like Lena she sounds like the opposite of how I like my characters. I’ve seen very mixed reviews on this one so I,m very wary to get into it now.

  3. Hm! I’m still not exactly sure what steampunk is. I’ve read two of them with steampunk elements but didn’t really pay attention to those parts of the book. Lena sounds like a really frustrating character, a backstabber AND a snitch? Yikes. I think it’s possible to like a book with less than likable characters but this doesn’t seem like one.

  4. who don’t have the same “if I don’t like the characters it ruins the whole book for me” issues that I have.

    See, I DO have those issues. So for now I think I’ll hold off on running out to get this one! I am getting more into steampunk as a genre, but I have huge issues when I don’t get/can’t at least somewhat like the MC. Good, fair review, Karen!


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