Cover The Left-Handed Booksellers of London: Cars driving seen through a knot in a tree with carvings

About the Book

Title: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Generic
BFF Charm: Single White Female
Talky Talk: Nix-y Fantasy
Bonus Factors: Secret Magical Societies
Relationship Status: Family Reunion

Cover Story: Generic

If you look closely it has some nice nods to the book in the details on the edges, but the overall look taken is a bit “meh” for me. I could’ve used some more oomph in the image, especially in the middle where the orange bits just kind of wash the details out. 

The Deal:

In a slightly-alternate version of 1983, Susan Arkshaw wakes up on her eighteenth birthday and feels like something has changed. But she doesn’t know what, so she continues on with her plan to spend the next few weeks before college in London searching for her father. Her mom has always been a bit…lucy-goosey with the unimportant details like his name and where he’s from, so there’s not much to go on. Susan starts her search with Frank Thringley, a man from her mother’s past who used to send her Christmas gifts.

Except Frank turns out to be a crime boss, and also a type of vampire called a “sipper”. After she witnesses Frank turn into a pile of goo after being pricked with a silver hat-pin by a left-handed bookseller named Merlin, Susan gets swept up into a world of fantastical and magical events that will change her life forever.

BFF Charm: Single White Female 

BFF Charm with an image of the main character from the movie Single White Female

Susan is perfectly nice and seems pretty bitchin’ (she sports an almost-shaven head and wears overalls with combat boots, and I feel like she was one of those effortlessly cool looking ’80s chicks). She’s also super easy-going despite all the crazy shizz going on around her, almost to the point, at times, where she felt like less like a fully-realized character and more of a stand-in for the reader, allowing YOU to join Merlin on his crazy adventures. So I won’t lie; I would totally rather BE Susan than be her BFF, because I, too, want to see some crazy cool shizz, even if some it is trying to kill me.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Merlin is model-striking beautiful and, perhaps, gender-fluid? (He sports suits and dresses with aplomb and seems very open with his sexuality. There’s also a bit at the beginning where he mentions he thinking about becoming female soon, but I couldn’t tell if it was more of a magically-based choice or a real-life gender identity choice.) Though Susan tells herself to guard her heart because he’s obviously a fun-in-the-sun heartbreaker, she’s fighting hard against his irrepressible charisma…

Talky Talk: Nix-y Fantasy

I’ve been a fan of Garth Nix’s novels for years, and while this has nothing to do with any of his other series, opening a book containing his writing was like slipping into a favorite old sweater or saying hi to a childhood friend. While this book won’t top the Abhorsen series for me personally, I still had a wonderful time reading it.

If you’re unfamiliar with a Garth Nix fantasy, expect wonderfully drawn worlds, characters who feel timeless, and a gentle but wry wit. Nix said the idea for the story came to him after one of his book tours, along with his fondness for the hard work of bookstores and booksellers (having been one himself once upon a time). This truly is a love letter to London, purveyors of the arts, and cherishers of history. He weaves in the magical elements so smoothly to the real-life bits that it was fun to see what the left- and right-handed booksellers would get up to next. Setting it in the ‘80s, devoid of cell phones and social media, felt like a smart choice (and a nostalgic one for Nix, I’m sure!).

I didn’t mind this being a standalone, but I wouldn’t say no to more adventures in this world in the future.

Bonus Factor: Secret Magical Societies 

A book opened with twinkle lights near it

The booksellers are a centuries-old, secretive, magical bunch who help to keep the old gods in check and those non-magical humans from stumbling into things they shouldn’t (or from becoming fodder for those with nefarious intent). If you’re more left-handed inclined, then you’re part of the magical peace-keeping force, trained in fighting and quick-thinking in stressful situations. Right-handed folks are the artists and deep thinkers, the curators of magical artifacts and the brains of the operation. Nix has borrowed from existing magical systems and added his own flair and tweaks here and there to create something familiar and yet fresh.

Relationship Status: Family Reunion

Book, you may be the younger cousin of those other novels I grew up with and fondly remember, but after we met up, I knew we were destined to also become friends. You remind me so much of what I loved about them: you have whimsy and charm and say all the right things.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Katherine Tegen Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.