Published by Allen & Unwin on September 22nd, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, New Adult, Fairy Tales & Folklore
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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). With the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), he belongs to 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 misspelled 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, a right-handed bookseller named Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find their 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.
The Good Things
- Standalone New Adult urban fantasy set in an alternate version of 1980s London.
- Aussie author!
- Writing and plot gave me strong vibes of a cross between The Raven Cycle and The Mortal Instruments.
- The story was chaotic and bizarre in the best way. Definitely unique!
- Lots of mythical creatures and lore! I loved the glimpses we got, as brief as they were.
- So much dry humour! It suited me perfectly. Merlin in particular was hilarious and my favourite character.
- Nice little bit of romance side plot that didn’t get in the way of the main plot.
- The second half of the story, when the plot starts moving and things start coming together, was so good! The last few chapters were great! Pulled my rating up half a star to 3.5/5.
The Not-So-Good Things
- The detailed descriptions, while humorous, could get a bit long winded, which sometimes threw off the pacing.
- Slow at the beginning. It took me a little while to get into it and I was easily distracted multiple times (could have been my general mood though).
- As someone born around the mid 90s, I feel like I missed a lot of the 80s references and jokes…
- Like all good standalone novels, I wish we got more time to explore the world and lore!
- The identity of the big villain wasn’t hard to figure out. Saying that, Garth Nix also didn’t really try to hide it. The foreshadowing and “something isn’t right” clues were pretty obvious.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London was a really fun read. I loved the concept and the humour in the writing, though I was also easily distracted, especially for the first half. I probably missed a lot of the 80s jokes and references too… I’m kind of sad it’s only a standalone because I’d love to explore more of the lore of the world.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5