Wednesday, 7 July 2021

NetGalley Review - The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan goes to London, on the hunt to find her father, a man she has never met. However, her first real lead is Crime boss Frank Thringley. Shame Susan doesn't have time to ask him any questions as Frank turns to dust within a few hours of meeting. He turned to dust due to a silver hatpin in the hands of Merlin, a young left-handed bookseller. Booksellers are beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World (Left-handed booksellers are the fighters, while the right-handed are the more intellectual) and it looks like it's invading the modern world... 

And Susan is slap-bang in the middle of it as someone or something wants Susan. Friend or foe? And does Susan's search for her father have any connect to the mysterious death of Merlin's (and his right-handed bookseller sister, Vivien's) mother...

Oh, heck, sorry! Need to put info up. Got to get back in the habit of this. Hang on:

Title And Author: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
Publisher: Gollancz
Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: eProof gifted by UK publisher in exchange for honest review/reaction. However, listened to Audiobook’s via library's audiobook app. 

Writing this pains me as Garth Nix is one of my rare auto-buy authors. I adore his Old Kingdom series (as soon as I heard that he was writing a fifth instalment of this series, Terciel and Elinor, I was waiting for the preorder link to appear) and I have read many of his books. And I was hugely excited when it was announced he was writing two adult fantasy novels and I read Angel Mage soon as I could get my hands on it...

But Left-Handed Booksellers of London is an odd one. I never felt excited over this and was more hesitant over it, hence why it took me over six months to sit down and audiobook it.

In theory, this book is written for me. I should be singing this book's praises. And yet... and yet, it didn't work for me.

There are main reasons why this didn't work. I didn't connect to any of the characters (they all felt flat and it didn't feel like there was any character development), nor did I connect to the audiobook narrator (I had to put on audiobook speed up to 1.5 - which is something I rarely do!). It felt odd as it felt like the first book in a series, not a standalone. Same feel that this was meant to be an adult fantasy and yet, felt YA or New Adult. Plus, this book at times made me go "I've read before..." and I kept going "Didn't this happen in Sabriel and he's just twisted it slightly?"

But this book's biggest flaw is world building. Stay with me on this one. Now, Garth Nix does world-building brilliantly in all the books I have read from him, and he does the same here. Deep and multi-layered (hence why I always felt like this was the first book in a series, not a standalone). However, at times, it felt like the world-building got in the way of the story and character development. The story, for me, didn't start till around the halfway mark as the first half of the book was world-building and info-dumping and, even the story did move at pace, world-building came in several occasions and slowed the pacing of the book down.

It's sad when an author you love writes a book and you don't click with it, but it's not the author's fault nor is it yours. These things happen. I do think, as I am writing this, that if you are a fan of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, you might want to put this on your radar.

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