In 1983 London, there is a world of magic and legends and mythical creatures, hidden from the eyes of regular humans yet co-existing relatively peacefully. This is the world of the extended family of magical booksellers who police the Old World when it intrudes upon on the New. This is the world of The Left-Handed Booksellers of London.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix is the story of Susan, recently 18, who convinces her mother to let her move to London three months early so that she can secretly try and track down the father she’s never met. Susan’s life has always been a little odd, but things get weirder when she moves to the city, and it turns out that her quest to find her father has put her in the crosshairs of some very nasty Old World creatures.
She is rescued by Merlin, a handsome and charming clothes horse and one of the left-handed (the fighting ones). Together with his sister Vivien, one of the right-handed (the intellectual ones), they deduce that the identity of Susan’s father may be related to their mother’s murder years ago. They have virtually no clues – only a reading room ticket, a silver cigarette case, and Susan’s mother’s half-remembered and possibly misspelled names – but they are determined to get to the bottom of both mysteries.
My first Garth Nix novel was last year’s Angel Mage, which I enjoyed very much, and I was expecting something similar to that with The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. The two could not be more different in tone, in pacing, and in style, and it’s my understanding that this is a complete departure for Nix. I must say, I absolutely loved this book. It was so much fun, and it’s funny, and it’s a wonderful, caper-filled romp.
This book hits the ground running right from the beginning. You can tell from the start that there is something off with Susan, and Merlin is introduced when he turns a crime boss into dust using a hatpin, so you know that things are going to get weird. It has creativity and adventure, just like a high fantasy novel, but it isn’t bogged down in bleak metaphors. It is a YA novel, but it could easily cross over into adult fantasy, because the only thing that clue you in to the fact that these are teenagers is that Susan’s 18th birthday is kind of an important plot point.
Nix’s writing is fun and irreverent, action-packed and dialogue-heavy, chock full of wry humor and 1980s British pop culture references that usually went over my head. There isn’t a lot of heavy prose or lengthy exposition, but you are able to get a good enough sense of the world and the characters. The villains are a little cartoonish (and unfortunately kind of obvious), and while the protagonists could have used some more development, they are a delight, particularly Merlin.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would definitely read more set in this world. The story has a conclusive ending. However, what really leaves this open for a sequel is the fact that there are endless possibilities with a premise like this.
Definitely pick up The Left-Handed Booksellers of London if you’re looking for a light, fun fantasy with an interesting plot and witty writing.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix is published by Katherine Tegen Books and is currently available wherever books are sold.
*I received an advance copy of The Left-Handed Booksellers of London from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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