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Radiant Shadows

The Peculiars

The Peculiars - Maureen Doyle McQuerry After being promised action, adventure, steampunk and peculiar people, I was pretty excited to start The Peculiars. What I got was a little action, a little less adventure, proto-steampunk, and very few peculiar people. So while I enjoyed reading The Peculiars, I can't help but feel a little disappointed.Leaving everything she's ever known to set out on a journey to the wild land of Scree, Lena at first captivated me with her bravery. Aware that her rather large hands and feet would capture unwanted attention, she nevertheless set out to find out her true origins and to determine, once and for all, whether she in fact was part goblin. Though distrustful of most people, having heard their whispers behind her back her whole life, she's managed to remain both curious about the world outside of her city and fiercely independent. At first, she fooled me in to thinking she also had a good head on her shoulders. But as the plot progressed, and she enters into a deal with a Court Marshall, I couldn't help but question her judgment. Her initial immediate distrust of strangers is conspicuously missing in her dealings with the Court Marshall, and with the subtlest of suggestions, he has her wrapped around his finger, blushing like a little school girl. Her trust in his motivations leads her to make some ill-advised decisions, with devastating results.Usually, this would be where I would commend her character growth, but unfortunately for Lena, there was none. Her actions seemingly have no consequences, with most events actually helping to further her personal aims. Her moments of revelations are stinted when shortly afterwards, she regresses to her former beliefs. Even once her journey is complete, and all struggles have been overcome, she has not undertaken any sort of grand epiphany - and her final few actions serve to reinforce my belief that she is quite shallow and self-centred. A flawed character when we first meet her, she remains just as flawed when we leave her, which is a pity as she had a wonderful opportunity to show some true character growth.I LOVED Mrs. Mumbles, the cat. Easily my favourite character, as McQuerry did a fabulous job of instilling a decidedly feline personality, with a little touch of humanness to her actions. (It definitely helps that she was named because her purr sounds like someone trying to speak, which is exactly why my cat is named Mumble!)I truly enjoyed Jimson, as his enthusiasm for life and knowledge was contagious. His ability to completely lose himself in a book, studying some scientific concept or method, and his curiosity about everything, was truly endearing. I was quite pleased when he was able to prove his worth as a librarian, and discredit Lena's initial scorn of his abilities. His eternal optimism, combined with his ability to see only the best in other people, made him an easy character to like. I also loved Mr. Beasley, who shared a similar zest for all things scientific. It was easy to picture him and Jimson like two kids in a candy shop, eyes aglow, anytime they were together discussing his latest invention. I do wish his painted eyebrows had been given some sort of explanation, as they were referenced often, and I was hoping they would end up alluding to his own peculiarity.I felt like the amount of Peculiars was sub-par, considering the amount of hype that surrounded Scree and the various types of peoples inhabiting it's lands. I was extremely disappointed to learn about only two types of Peculiars, those with wings and those with some form of goblinism, and felt like it was an area that could have been much better exploited. I also felt like the existence of Peculiars was not well-explained - with all the references to Darwinism, I'm assuming they were meant as the result of mutations which then led to dominant traits that survived natural selection, but as it was always mentioned in passing, this is an explanation I have derived on my own. I also felt let-down by the anticipation-building scenarios that Merilee hinted at, speaking about native Scree-ians who were unwilling to be out after dark, only to have one largely uneventful interaction between Lena and the creatures Merilee was referring to. The animals that inhabited Scree were mentioned several times in fact, all expressing traits not found elsewhere, but with no explanation. I wanted answers as to why Scree was so special, and was underwhelmed by flaky and vague explanations.Lack of character growth, and subpar world-building aside, I did enjoy reading The Peculiars. The pacing moved along nicely, creating just enough suspense and action to keep me reading, but not enough to keep me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I cared enough about the characters to see them reach the end of their journeys, but to be honest, the only one I was ever truly worried about was Mrs. Mumbles. The ending ties everything up a little too nicely, but all major plot points are resolved (yey!).