The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of teen fantasy, Garth Nix.

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:

Garth Nix is one author whose books I always buy. And this is not just because he’s an old friend. He writes the very best kind of young adult fantasy – full of magic and adventure and old-fashioned storytelling, but with a very modern sensibility. And he’s always surprising. This new novel has a very intriguing premise. It’s set in 1983, a time I remember well, and centres on a young woman’s quest to find the father she has never known. Susan Arkshaw is tough and fiercely independent. She’s always had to look out for herself, for her father is unknown and her mother is strangely dreamy and vague, to the point of not really being quite there.  She sets off to London to meet a man who once sent her mother a Christmas card, but before she can interrogate him he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin wielded by a left-handed bookseller named Merlin. Turns out he is one of an underworld of magical fighting detectives who conceal themselves behind the façade of bookshops, both dusty-and-cobwebby and brand-new. As Susan and Merlin are chased by hordes of different magical creatures, they team up to solve the mystery of just who Susan’s father might be, in a swiftly-paced, smart and funny romp through old English folklore. I just loved the premise, and am hoping this is the beginning of a whole new series. 

You might also like to read my review of Angel Mage by Garth Nix:

BOOK REVIEW: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

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Kate Forsyth
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