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The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by…

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (edition 2020)

by Garth Nix (Author), Marisa Calin (Narrator), Listening Library (Publisher)

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4172545,710 (3.91)30
Title:The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
Authors:Garth Nix (Author)
Other authors:Marisa Calin (Narrator), Listening Library (Publisher)
Info:Listening Library (2020)
Collections:BNY, Kindle, Your library
Tags:Read in 2021, Kindle, Fiction, Books about books, Fantasy, Magic, London, Urban fantasy

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The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix


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Susan Arkshaw has turned 18 and headed to London to try to find her father. Her mother is a little spacy and doesn't give Susan much info to help in the search so she is left with just a postcard from a "friend" of her father's. Before Susan can gather more information she is confronted by a young man who informs her of danger and helps her escape to where she is introduced to the Left-handed Booksellers who will protect her on her search.

Several items in this book bothered me. First, even though it is science fiction, I felt that it was a bit too graphic and frightening in some areas for the younger readers (It frightened me in spots!) and second, it was hard to follow in some areas. I felt that it could have stood a little more editing.

Disappointing for a fan of Garth Nix. ( )
  cyderry | Jun 3, 2021 |
In a 1983 that is perhaps slightly different from the one we remember, Susan Arkshaw turns 18 on May 1, and shortly thereafter goes to London. In three months, she'll be starting art school. In the meantime, she wants to find her father, whom she has never met and about whom her mother has told her almost nothing, including not telling her even his first name.

She does have some clues, though, including a few items that may have belonged to her father, and the name and address of one potential candidate--"Uncle" Frank Tingley, who sent her cards at Christmas for years. When she reaches his home, though, she finds that "Uncle" Frank does not seem at all a likely possibility, and moreover seems to be a rather creepy person she'd rather not be associated with. As she's preparing to sneak out of the house, a very attractive young man comes in, and sticks Frank with a pin, which causes him to disintegrate into dust--which is not the kind of creepy Susan had been worried about.

Soon the young man, who says his name is Merlin, is leading her on an escape from beings who came in after Frank disintegrated. Their pursuers are a dark cloud and a huge, bug-like creature, and their escape route is only superficially more natural. When what might be a park ranger shoots at Susan, not Merlin, Merlin decides she needs to meet some unlikely people.

Merlin St. Jacques is one of the left-handed booksellers of London, part of a large, extended clan that includes the right-handed booksellers of London. These booksellers are engaged in more than just selling books; they are protecting the world from supernatural destabilization.

It appears one of the ancient Sovereigns, the powers most capable of destabilizing things, and some of whom are actively malevolent, is taking an unusual and worrying interest in Susan

What follows is terror, adventure, betrayal, magical places and experiences, and disturbing revelations about Susan's background, as well as intrigue among the booksellers. Meanwhile, there's no question that Susan and Merlin are finding each other interesting. Yet they are rather distracted by other things, and Susan is not at all sure that Merlin would sustain anything other than a very short-term relationship.

On the other hand, the fact that Merlin is considering changing from male to female in the indeterminate future, and in the meantime seems to enjoy wearing dresses and suits in about equal measure, doesn't appear to strike either Susan or anyone else as a possible obstacle to a romantic relationship between them.

It's fun, it's interesting, the characters are great, and it really kept me listening the whole time.


I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | May 16, 2021 |
I'd categorise this as a contemporary fantasy with the fantastic elements being predominantly mythological. The plot is straightforward, even linear. When Susan tries to find out who her father is, she becomes the target of various attacks, assaults, trickery and so on, though fortunately she also has some allies.

The writing style made me feel the book is aimed at a younger reader. I was always aware of the author explaining what was going on, frequently jumping between characters' heads to tell us just what X thought of Y, and then Z's reaction to it. The story is set in the 1980s. I remember many of the cultural references mentioned, but they felt very list-like, and I don't know that they enhanced the setting. I dare say they would work better visually rather than laid out on page.

Susan in particular felt like a very passive character all the way through. Not only did she have very little reaction to the weird things happening around and to her, she didn't really make any choices or face any decisions. It felt like her role was to be pushed around by the plot and to have things explained to her.

Overall, the book was quite readable, but I'd have preferred more sense of the characters earning their way.
  MHThaung | May 12, 2021 |
When Susan Arkshaw turns 18, she leaves her mother in their country farmhouse to travel to London, intent on discovering the identity of her father before she starts her art course in college. She first visits the one person whose full name she knows (because he always sent Christmas cards), but before she can ask him anything, he is, well, discorporated and she is forced to flee with the person responsible: Merlin, an impossibly handsome left-handed bookseller, whose work involves protecting England from the more unsavory aspects of the Otherworld. Together with Merlin’s right-handed sister Vivien, Susan embarks on an extraordinary journey to find her father, who may or may not be mythical - or alive…. I’ve heard of Garth Nix, possibly read some short stories, but no novels until now; I may need to rectify that omission soon, on the basis of this YA novel. The fantasy elements are distinctly British, with elements from Celtic and Norse and more generic Pagan mythology, but Mr. Nix is able to blend these disparate stories into a seamless whole. Which is to say, I completely believed his “hidden world” and its interactions with the “real” world of (a somewhat different) 1983 London and more generally England. I gather that this is a stand-alone, but I’d love to read of the further adventures of Susan, Merlin and Vivien as they continue to interact with the fantastical realms just underneath our normal one; recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | May 11, 2021 |
{Stand-alone. Fantasy, urban fantasy, YA} (2020)

In the early summer of 1983 Susan Arkshaw has just turned eighteen and decides to go up to London early to earn some money before starting art school, rather than stay in the country, near Bath, with her mum. She has had another of her recurring dreams in which her father was mentioned this time and she wants to try and find him. The dream involves fae creatures warding their house with the powers given to them by her father and is always comforting.

On the night Susan arrives in London she runs into a strange young man called Merlin St Jacques (who is entirely too good-looking) and quickly discovers that there are things magical and dangerous, of the old world which lies just beyond normal sight. And, for some reason, they seem to want Susan. Merlin wears a glove on his left hand and turns out to be one of the left-handed booksellers of London who are experts in weaponry and protect our world against inimical beings of the old world. The St Jacques family are extensive and multicultural and are all involved with selling books - they own two bookshops. As well as left-handed booksellers, there are also right-handed and even-handed family members.

In other circumstances, the booksellers - who have a special arrangement with the police - would be able to make Susan forget her magical night's experience but they end up helping Susan against her attackers. The adventure takes them around London and, eventually, further north. Australian author Nix made his first trip to London in 1983 and the places do ring true (as much as I can remember, that far back).

Since this is a story about booksellers, a lot of books and authors from a range of centuries get a mention.

I enjoyed this story, although I had to keep thinking of a London when I was about thirteen years old, when things were a bit different. I wouldn't mind learning more about the left- and right-handed booksellers, though this is a complete story in itself. (In other words, more please!)

4 stars ( )
  humouress | May 3, 2021 |
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To Anna, Thomas and Edward;

my parents, Henry and Katharine Nix;

my brothers Simon and Jonathan and their families;

and to all my family and friends.
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It was 5:42 a.m. on May Day, 1983, in the west of England, and a sliver of the sun had edged above the ridge.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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