This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance. On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.
I really liked Lena and her 'abnormality' in her long hands and feet. It's really refreshing to read about a character who isn't physically perfect. Overall, I thought she was a really great leading lady and I could chart her character growth throughout the whole novel. My favourite character by far was Jimson. I'd describe his personality as a kid in a candy shop. He's constantly excited, but I just didn't see him as a mature love interest for Lena.
I think where this book fell flat for me was the pacing. I would equate this book to a traffic jam, I think. I'm trying to get somewhere that I'm really excited about and traffic is moving again only to sputter to a halt once more. Several times. Some parts of the book dragged out while others had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I just wanted Lena to meet some peculiars and just maybe get to Scree.
I didn't love the book, but I did find most of it rather enjoyable when the plot picked up. I would recommend this book to readers with interest in historical fiction with a fantasy twist, as I don't know if I'd classify this as steampunk myself. The author does take a lot of liberties with the scientific history (I cringed a little when Lena mentioned DNA, not coined until much later) but that's to be expected with fantasized history. Interestingly, Maureen Doyle McQuerry has a very neat little afterword giving the factual history of many of the inventions and weapons used in the story that picky people might want to look at first.