Saturday, April 17, 2021

Book and Audio Review: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Garth Nix
Narrator: Marisa Calin
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (September 22, 2020); Listening Library (September 22, 2020)
Length: 408 p.; 11 hours and 15 minutes

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: It is 1983 in an alternate London when Susan Arkshaw comes to try to discover who her father is before she begins an arts course at school. She has stopped to see Frank Thringly who had sent Christmas presents and written to her and her mother for years. She isn't expecting him to be turned to dust via a silver hatpin wielded by Merlin St. Jacques. Nor is she expecting to be forced to flee with Merlin which drops her into a magical world she knew nothing about.

Merlin is one of a line of left-handed booksellers who do more than sell books. Their tasks are to keep legendary creatures under control. Merlin's family includes the left-handed ones who are the fighters and right-handed ones who are the scholars and even-handed ones too. 

Merlin decides to help Susan track down her father because he learns that there is something special and unusual about her and also because she is suddenly in danger from creatures from the other world. Susan doesn't have many clues beyond a reading room ticket with an illegible name and a silver cigarette case with an unknown engraving. 

Merlin is on a quest of his own to find out who murdered his mother. The two investigations look to be linking up. Marisa Calin did a great job narrating this story. The pacing was well done and the characters easily distinguishable. 

The story is filled with intriguing characters, lots of literary references, lots of action and even a romance as Merlin and Susan get to know each other. Fans of contemporary fantasy and coming of age stories will enjoy this well told tale. 

Favorite Quote:
"Children's writers," said Merlin. "Dangerous bunch. They cause us a lot of trouble."

"How?" asked Susan.

'They don't do it on purpose," said Merlin. He opened the door. "But quite often they discover the key to raise some ancient myth, or release something that should have stayed imprisoned, and they share that knowledge via their writing. Stories aren't merely stories, you know. Come on."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

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