Monday, 2 August 2021

The Left-handed Booksellers of London


Recently finished this after my friend, Cassie, mentioned it on Facebook:

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.

A fairly gentle read. Overtones of The Rivers of London, Diana Wynne Jones, and Emma Newman's Split Worlds series. 

The lead male character, Merlin, is a little Howl-esque. A slightly vain, fashionable fop with intense magical abilities. I like the main character, Susan, who was more than capable of keeping him in check - a child of the 80s. 

I just checked my clips/notes, and found I only made one, which is a little unusual for me:

A tree is strong, but the wind is stronger. A stone is strong, but the sea is stronger. The sun is strong, but sorrow is stronger. 

So, yes, it was a nice book especially if you like your folklore of the British Isles. The Old Man of Coniston and the summer solstice play a large role. A little bit of 80s nostalgia in there, including mention of a Swatch. I got it on Audible, but I get the sense it might be more enjoyable in tree format, read over long winter nights beside the fire. It's got that sort of oldy London atmosphere that doesn't entirely translate to the sun-bleached equator. Seems like the set-up for a series. 

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