I found The Peculiar by debut author Stefan Bachmann hard going and rather peculiar. The Victorian atmosphere is a nice touch, and the alternate history aspect is fun, but I had a hard time figuring out the weird magic and the outlandish world it inhabits. When I was three fourths of the way through, I still didn’t know why the changelings/peculiars had to hide or why people would hang them if they saw them. I thought maybe I was supposed to wonder until the Big Reveal at the end? Or I missed something? But there was no big reveal about that particular question, anyway.
I must have a low tolerance for extreme weirdness, foreign weirdness. Mr. Bachmann began writing The Peculiar in 2010 when he was sixteen, and his youth and inexperience show. He tried to pack too many really bizarre creatures and ideas into one book, and the surrealism of whole experience overwhelmed this reader.
Your mileage may vary. If you like the cover with the clockwork bird (I didn’t), you might like the book, too. Mr. Bachmann is also a budding young composer and a student at the Zurich Conservatory in Switzerland. If you go to his website, you can listen to his Peculiar Pieces, music written by Stefan Bachmann to accompany the book. I liked the music better than I did the book.
Charlotte’s Library: “Perhaps it would give you some idea of the taste and texture of it if I said it reminded me at times of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Stroud, with a generous dash of Diana Wynne Jones, but you have to add steampunk-ness.”
Bewitched Bookworms: “Entertaining characters and great world building which culminate in a killer cliffhanger make this Middle Grade story a sure to please read!”
One Librarian’s Book Reviews: “So many strange and fantastical things going on, it was hard to keep track of them all. A fun foray into steampunk world colliding with not-very-nice fairies.”