books, reviews

Book Review – The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix

I was very kindly sent a copy of this book by the publisher with no requirement to review.

Eighteen-year-old art student Susan Arkshaw arrives in London in search of her father. But before she can question crime boss Frank Thringley he’s turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. Merlin is one of the youngest members of a secret society of booksellers with magical powers who police the mythic Old World wherever it impinges on the New World – in addition to running several bookshops, of course! Merlin also has a quest of his own: to find the Old World entity who arranged the murder of his mother. Their investigations attract attention from enemies of the Old and New Worlds. Soon they become involved in an even more urgent task to recover the grail that is the source of the left-handed booksellers’ power, before it is used to destroy the booksellers and rouse the hordes of the mythic past. As the search for the grail becomes strangely intertwined with both their quests, they start to wonder… Is Susan’s long-lost father a bookseller, or something altogether more mysterious?

My thoughts:

As a left-handed book reader of London, I was very excited about the title of this book. One of my favourite sub-genres of books is books about books/libraries/bookshops and when things are set in London, I enjoy going “I know there!” like a small child. Part of the action even takes place just up the road from me in Totteridge (although I don’t know it very well).

Finally left-handers (10% of the population fyi) are getting some recognition – we have certain skills like using things designed for right-handers that are a struggle the other way round! (Lefties of the UK, and possibly elsewhere, google Anything Left-Handed and buy some scissors etc to make life easier for yourself, and also stab any righty who tries to borrow them, it wrecks the bolt that holds the blades together!)

Back to the book – this is tremendous fun, set in an alternate 1983, Susan comes to London for art school, and also to try and locate her long lost dad, her mum hasn’t been exactly forthcoming with the details.

She ends up getting mixed up with criminal elements, both human and otherworldly, and being rescued by a young Merlin, the aforementioned Left-Handed Bookseller of London. One of many it turns out.

He’s part of a secret organisation that keeps things from the Old World from popping up in the modern one. And when they do break through, the booksellers send them back. They also run two bookshops.

I really enjoyed this book, with all its literary references and the vital importance of books in helping the booksellers maintain order, even if fantasy writers are a complete nuisance!

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