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YA Fantasy Book Review: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

4 stars


Type of Fantasy: Urban


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

Whew. This book was a wild ride! In fact, it was almost too wild–crazy events happened right after another, and I actually would have liked more time to breathe and catch my breath. Those poor characters hardly had time to eat; I would have fainted from hunger long before they ate something! I know it’s a fantasyesque world with magic, but still. Feed your characters! 🙂

I did enjoy the clash of the New World with the Old World and all the various creatures that we get to meet. The magic system is no Sanderson system (it’s hard to live up to him!), and some of the differences in how the right and left-handed booksellers used magic felt a bit flat or too straightforward. But overall the world and magic made enough sense, even if some of them were pretty weird.

Susan impressed me with how easily she took everything in stride, and she was a pretty likeable character. Merlin was weird, and even by the end of the book I wasn’t sure what to think of him, but he does have some epic skills with all his weapons. He’s the one you want beside you if monsters from the Old World are attacking you. His sister was downright cool.

I would have liked more character building. Susan does realize who her father is by the end of the book, but she doesn’t overcome any personal challenges or weaknesses. A personal struggle would have added that layer that gets you in the gut and makes the book linger with you like a sweet aftertaste.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is for people who like weird, action-packed books with fantasy steeped in history and legends/folklore.

Do you ever read urban fantasy? What’s one of your favorites?

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