The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
I fell behind again. But I've been reading a lot, which has been very pleasant. And I made a skirt I've been meaning to make for years, and I got my fancy big project quilt in for quilting! Sewing the backing was a lot of work.
This novel has been making people's lists lately, and I happened upon it at the library, so I thought I'd see what the fuss was. I've actually never read Garth Nix, though of course his name is familiar as one of the juvenile fantasy writers who gained popularity in the last 20 years. Plus I'm always a sucker for a London story.
So: it's 1983 (and a slightly alternate universe), and Susan Arkshaw has just turned 18, and is off to London to make her fortune -- and find her father. Her dreamy, will-o'-the-wisp mother has dropped hints here and there, but has never identified Susan's father by name. Susan just has a collection of vague clues and names. So she starts with the only one that has a full name and address.
And she's promptly launched into a dangerous adventure, as several different magical creatures try to kill her. Merlin comes on the scene just in time; he's one of the left-handed booksellers, which means he's a warrior type (sort of). The right-handed booksellers are the clever ones who do the research, and the booksellers are a small group of talented people who try to keep a handle on magical doings. Merlin's mother was murdered a few years ago, and if he and Susan work together, they might be able to find out the answers to their puzzles, not to mention solving the mystery of who has infiltrated the booksellers' network and is intent on killing anybody in the way.
It's sort of like if you crossed Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next series with Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. I like both of those things, and this one was a lot of fun too. There are plenty of books mentioned, to make us bookie people feel pleasantly smug. In fact, DWJ's Power of Three was one, to my delight! Lloyd Alexander is not mentioned, despite the actual presence of cauldron-born. (Magical booksellers find fantasy authors to be a nuisance, as they're forever accidentally intuiting truths and then publishing them to the world.) There are also lots of inside jokes -- an old cricket bag with a PDBW monogram, a Princess Bride (the novel) joke, things like that.
Having the story set in 1983 was a good idea, to my mind. One problem with writing stories set in the now is that characters can spend an awful lot of time getting their information on the internet, and this avoids the boring ubiquity of computers.
I liked this book quite a bit. It's a fun romp, well-written, with some high stakes attached. The world is good to explore, and the resolution is very satisfying. A sequel would be welcome.