Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix


I've read a few Garth Nix novels over the years and he remains one of my favorite YA and children's authors. This novel got me just by the title. I was a bookseller for 25 years, and those many years sharing my love of reading and books gave me some of the best memories and made me feel like I made some impact, however small it might have been.

Have you ever heard of a runner's high? That thing that happens when you hit a time during a run where it feels effortless and magical and you could run for hours? Well, I would get that feeling at work when I talked to people about books. Not all the time, but boy, when it did happen, it was pretty awesome. I'd actually come home exhausted and feeling pretty drained from all of it. I still get that feeling sometimes when I talk to people about what I've read, or what I'm reading. It fills me up when I'm running low. 

Anyhow, back to this novel. It took me a few weeks to read it, and I wish I'd just kept plugging away and finished it in a few days. I am also reading a few other books at the same time, and kept bouncing around and not accomplishing much. But I buckled down and finished it this morning. I was reminded again how much I love British mythology and magic. It's one of my favorite fantasy elements to read about when I'm looking for something to read. This definitely fit the bill. And made me long to return to England for a visit. Someday. 

This novel is set in 1983 London. Susan Arkshaw has just turned eighteen and is moving to London to attend art school, and also to look for her father. She's never met him, and her mother is very vague about who he is and where he went. Susan doesn't even have a name to go by. But, her mother does have a few connection in London and Susan decides to start with one of those connections. And that is where Susan's story takes off. 

Crime boss Frank Thringley has invited Susan to supper, but something wild happens and Frank ends up dead-actually turned to dust by a pin prick. The person who did the deed is a young man named Merlin, who dresses with a whole lot of flair and wears a glove on his left hand. Merlin quickly rushes Susan out of Frank's house, telling her if they stay she will be killed. Susan's time in London quickly spirals into a world she was unaware of, but one in which she may belong. Merlin and his sister Vivien are booksellers; Merlin a left handed one, and Vivien a right handed one. They have magical powers; Merlin is a fighter, and Vivien, as a right handed bookseller, uses her intellect. Together they, along with hundreds of  other booksellers, keep the peace in England. 

However, someone wants Susan dead, and she's thrown into wild adventures with Merlin and Vivien as they connect Susan's mother with the murder of their mother years ago. Who killed their mother? And how does Susan's father factor into all of it? And why is Susan in danger? 

The magical elements in this novel were a big hit for me. Old world magic and New World magic battling for control; ancient rituals and connections to the earth and elemental beings--all the stuff I love! I can't wait for more. I hope there is more! 

This is written as a YA novel; if that makes you hesitate, please don't let that stop you. Garth Nix writes such a good story any age will dive right in and gulp it down. Reading this has me thinking that I probably need to rediscover some of Mr. Nix's previous works. He has just the right blend of action, adventure, and darkness to keep you engaged. His characters are well developed and interesting, too. 

Rating: 4/6 for the start of a what I hope is a new series. Booksellers, London, magic, and ancient powers all blend into a novel about a young woman who wants to find her father. Plenty of action, mythology, and book talk to keep you reading late into the night. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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