Review of The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
by Garth Nix
High School    Tegen/HarperCollins    416 pp.    g
9/20    978-0-06-268325-0    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-268327-4    $9.99

In an alternate version of 1983 England, eighteen-year-old Susan Arkshaw travels to London to search for the father she’s never known. Almost immediately, Susan encounters dashing Merlin St. Jacques and is thrust into the dangerous world he inhabits. Merlin is a member of a sprawling family of “booksellers” who do incidentally sell books but whose primary duty is to protect humanity from entities from other realms. (Merlin’s pronouns are he/him — for now; among the booksellers it is accepted to magically transition one’s gender, something Merlin is “pondering.”) With the help of a motley crew of booksellers both left- (the fighters) and right-handed (the researchers), Susan and Merlin face off against fantastical creatures, unravel the mystery of Susan’s supernatural parentage, and fall a little bit in love along the way. As in his high-fantasy novels (the Abhorsen Chronicles; Angel Mage, rev. 11/19), Nix puts a strong, capable, and resourceful young woman front and center within a diverse cast; here, the grounding in our own world (sort of) allows him to work in plenty of pop-culture references and tropes from British spy stories. A thrilling, suspenseful romp with lots of humor and romantic tension; the ending is satisfying but implies we haven’t seen the last of Susan and Merlin.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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