Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Garth Nix
Completed 10/7/2021, Reviewed 10/7/2021
4 stars

I’ve only read one other Garth Nix novel, “Sabriel”, and I enjoyed it immensely, though I read it way before I was writing reviews.  I enjoyed this book immensely as well.  It’s about an extended family of booksellers that keep the Old World spirits from invading the New World, that is, the present.   It has good prose, great action, and tremendous world-building.  It’s been nominated for several awards, including the Mythopoeic this year, I’m sure because of the strength of the magical world Nix created.

Susan is an eighteen-year-old woman who doesn’t know who her father is.  She leaves her ditsy mother to go to school in London and also to find her father.  She goes to a man, whom she calls Uncle Frank, looking for clues, only to find him being disintegrated with a silver hat pin.  She’s rushed out by the killer, only to find out he’s the good guy and her uncle was a vampire-like gangster.  Suddenly they are surrounded by fog and chased by something unnatural.  She finds out her companion is someone who deals with the supernatural.  She also finds out that she may have something stirring within her which is otherworldly.   Soon Susan is in a race to not only find her father, but to save her life.

This synopsis only lightly touches on all the supernatural things that Susan encounters.  After the opening, the excitement only builds.  I have to say that this was one of the most exciting fantasies I’ve read in a long time.  It’s kind of fluff, but it’s highly entertaining fluff.  It’s also very imaginative.  Nix built a terrific supernatural system of magic and the power of the ancient ones.  

There’s a lot of character building as well.  Susan is the main character.  At eighteen, she acts somewhere between a teen and a grownup.  She’s kinda whiny but still interesting and relatable.  She works with two booksellers, a left-handed one and right-handed one.  Merlin, the left-handed one, is the doer, the fighter.  He’s a shapeshifter, but also likes to dress either as a man or a woman.  His sister, Vivien, is the intellectual right-handed one.  Vivien is the more rational one.  She wields spells, puts people to sleep, and confuses them.  Together they navigate London and its outskirts trying to figure out why Susan is special.  

I give this book four out of five stars.  It’s excellent fluff.  It may be argued that this might even be categorized as YA, as the Susan is just barely eighteen.  But the story stands on its own as an urban fantasy that all ages can enjoy.  And while it is a standalone novel, it can easily generate other novels in the same world, as the was built with lots of possibilities for other stories.  

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