The left-handed booksellers of London by Garth Nix

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It is 1983 and Susan Arkshaw is on a quest to find her father. She travels to London, hoping that crime boss Frank Thringley can help her, but Merlin kills him with a silver hatpin before she can get any answers. With creatures from the Old World after her, she joins up with Merlin and his sister Vivien, who are looking for the murderer of their mother and must overcome incredible odds to keep the modern world safe.

Nix’s wonderful imagination takes the reader into a world where there are left-handed booksellers who fight evil, Merlin being one of them, and right-handed booksellers like Vivien who are intellectuals and solve problems. Anyone who has travelled to London and visited the big bookstores there will recognise the authenticity of their description and enjoy the idea of left-handed booksellers. The combination of the world in 1983 and the fantasy world of legends is handled deftly, and I had no problem with suspending belief as I followed the amazing adventures of Susan and her book-selling friends.

The main characters are fully fleshed out. Susan is a determined, brave and thoughtful young woman, while Merlin is enormously attractive, whether dressed as a young man or woman. Vivien is clever while the villains in the story are dastardly.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London was even better on a second read and will go on my shelf of feel-good reads to be turned to when I need an outstanding action-packed story, beautifully written and with memorable characters. Fans of A corner of white by Jaclyn Moriarty and Diana Wynne Jones would enjoy this. Teacher’s notes are available from the publisher.

Themes: Fantasy, Adventure, Gender, Magic, Quests.

Pat Pledger