Over the past few years, I’ve become an obsessive fan of magic realism and quirky fantasy. Not only do I read it, but I write it; the book I finished in August is classified magic realism. There’s something about the monotony of real life being broken up by, say, a magic wand, or in the case of Stefan Bachmann’s The Peculiar, a half-faery child and falling black feathers.
Stefan Bachmann is a kid, which is borderline disgusting. He started writing The Peculiar when he was sixteen. (Seriously, you have to resent people who are insanely talented at such a young age.) He currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, where he attends the Zurich Conservatory. Not only does he write novels, but he writes music, too. He plays multiple instruments, and he composed songs to go along with The Peculiar, available at the book’s website, http://www.thepeculiarbook.com.
The Peculiar is the story of Bartholomew Kettle. Bartholomew is a changeling: half faery, half human. In the surreal world of The Peculiar (set in a fictitious Victorian England where magic is fully acknowledged), changelings are known as “Peculiars,” and neither faery nor human want anything to do with them.
Bartholomew spends his days hiding in his tiny house in Bath (a faery slum) with his human mother and changeling sister, Hettie (who has tree branches for hair). One day, things go haywire when Bartholomew witnesses his neighbor (also a Peculiar) being abducted by a creepy woman in purple. In all, nine Peculiars have gone missing and turned up dead lately, this neighbor being the last.
The English Parliament is worried, which is where hum-drum human Arthur Jelliby comes in. Jelliby would have been fine sleeping in, wandering through a mundane life, but when he makes a scene at the home of fellow Parliament member and faery Mr. Lickerish, Arthur and Bartholomew’s fates are intertwined. They must save the Peculiars, stop the woman in purple, and figure out what’s up with the black feathers that rain from the sky—before the world collapses into magical chaos.
See, doesn’t that sound like fun? Not only is the plotline exceptional, but the writing is, too. The voice is playful on occasion. Then, Bachmann goes dark and spooky. Other times, his words are whimsical. Every page is entertaining. I read the dang book in two days, couldn’t put it down. For me, The Peculiar is a perfect mix of fantasy, mystery, horror, and comedy. The imagery is haunting, for certain, and little kids will be freaked. I’d say reading level is young adult, but the storyline is all ages.
Bartholomew just wants to fit in, but as a changeling, he can’t. Jelliby just wants to sleep in, but with a newfound conscience, he can’t either. These characters change throughout the novel; they learn about themselves and about each other. As reader, we learn about the world of Bachmann—a surreal, glorious place where wolves pull taxis and lamplights are flame faeries trapped behind glass. I can’t wait for the sequel (yes, there’s a sequel). Rumor has it this is a two-book series, but trust me, once you read The Peculiar, you’re gonna wish Bachmann could stretch this thing out for seven.