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The Peculiarities

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From popular historical alternate history author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) comes the tale of a clueless young man embroiled in a deadly supernatural mystery in London. Rooted in strange conspiracies and secret societies, this absurdist comedic romp combines strange bedfellows with murderous creatures, resulting in an unexpectedly delightful consequences. All of hi From popular historical alternate history author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) comes the tale of a clueless young man embroiled in a deadly supernatural mystery in London. Rooted in strange conspiracies and secret societies, this absurdist comedic romp combines strange bedfellows with murderous creatures, resulting in an unexpectedly delightful consequences. All of his life, Thomas Thresher has been free of obligation and responsibility, but that is over now. He is a twenty-three-year-old man whose best days are behind him. Thomas's older brother Walter has trapped him in a tedious clerical job at the family bank in London, and Thomas is expected to wed a wealthy young woman in whom he has no interest. But Thomas has more serious problems than those of a disaffected young man. There are irregularities at the bank he cannot explain. His childhood friend has mysteriously turned up dead. Worse, a verdant skin malady has infected him: leaves have begun sprouting on his skin. Thomas must conclude that it is due to the long-rumored Peculiarities. London's famous grey fog has been concealing a rash of unnatural afflictions--and worse, the murderous Elegants. As Thomas grows leafier, the conspiracies surrounding him become more apparent. He cannot determine whom to trust: his own family; his banking co-workers and superiors; the beautiful widow of his companion; the woman he is to marry. Or perhaps a lycanthropic medium; the members of a secret occult society...or even Aleister Crowley.


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From popular historical alternate history author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) comes the tale of a clueless young man embroiled in a deadly supernatural mystery in London. Rooted in strange conspiracies and secret societies, this absurdist comedic romp combines strange bedfellows with murderous creatures, resulting in an unexpectedly delightful consequences. All of hi From popular historical alternate history author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper) comes the tale of a clueless young man embroiled in a deadly supernatural mystery in London. Rooted in strange conspiracies and secret societies, this absurdist comedic romp combines strange bedfellows with murderous creatures, resulting in an unexpectedly delightful consequences. All of his life, Thomas Thresher has been free of obligation and responsibility, but that is over now. He is a twenty-three-year-old man whose best days are behind him. Thomas's older brother Walter has trapped him in a tedious clerical job at the family bank in London, and Thomas is expected to wed a wealthy young woman in whom he has no interest. But Thomas has more serious problems than those of a disaffected young man. There are irregularities at the bank he cannot explain. His childhood friend has mysteriously turned up dead. Worse, a verdant skin malady has infected him: leaves have begun sprouting on his skin. Thomas must conclude that it is due to the long-rumored Peculiarities. London's famous grey fog has been concealing a rash of unnatural afflictions--and worse, the murderous Elegants. As Thomas grows leafier, the conspiracies surrounding him become more apparent. He cannot determine whom to trust: his own family; his banking co-workers and superiors; the beautiful widow of his companion; the woman he is to marry. Or perhaps a lycanthropic medium; the members of a secret occult society...or even Aleister Crowley.

30 review for The Peculiarities

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    3.75 stars. CW: sexual assault This historical fantasy was a little iffy in the beginning, but it got much better after a certain point. Thomas Thresher is a 23 year old man who has lived a mostly carefree life without any hardships or obligations. Now he has a low-level clerical job at his family’s bank in London. On top of the tediousness of his job, his older brother, Walter, is pressuring him to marry Esther, a wealthy woman. Neither of whom have any interest in the other. Oh, and Thomas is 3.75 stars. CW: sexual assault This historical fantasy was a little iffy in the beginning, but it got much better after a certain point. Thomas Thresher is a 23 year old man who has lived a mostly carefree life without any hardships or obligations. Now he has a low-level clerical job at his family’s bank in London. On top of the tediousness of his job, his older brother, Walter, is pressuring him to marry Esther, a wealthy woman. Neither of whom have any interest in the other. Oh, and Thomas is also mysteriously growing leaves on his body. He thinks it might be connected to something called the Peculiarities, which are strange occurrences and creatures that no one is really talking about. In addition to all that, Thomas has begun to notice strange dealings at the bank, dealings that are not conducive to a bank making money. Thus, he goes on a journey to uncover the bank’s odd dealings and to learn more about these Peculiarities. This book artfully combines magic with mythology and historical figures. Lycanthropy, Ovid influences, rabid rabbits and secret societies all blend together in this late nineteenth century tale. I was excited that I got approved for the ARC of this, then as I began reading it, I slowly started to hate it. I thought the main character was a whiny, self-pitying, insufferable man who equates his problems with that of persons of colour. I was going to stop reading it after some horrific descriptions of sexual assault. But then I read a review that said that the story was presented this way purposefully, so I continued, not fully convinced, but willing to see where it went. I’m glad to say that the story did improve about fifty pages in. And while, Thomas may have started out as a privileged brat, he goes through a major character arc that I quite enjoyed. All of the characters were well-developed. I enjoyed Aleister Crowley’s character the most; he was as funny as he was arrogant. There was also a big reveal at the end that I did not see coming. Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for this e-arc.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

    This book might be flying under your radar; don’t let it. Make it, um, whatever the opposite of flying under the radar is—hop on top of your pop? Tickle your pickle? Drive over your bridge? Straddle your face in the literary sense? I have no idea. The point is, this book is a wonderful mix of alternate history, mystery, the arcane, and Victorian atmosphere. David Liss, who writes killer historical fiction, has been spreading his tendrils into more fantastic fare of late and he’s got a real gift f This book might be flying under your radar; don’t let it. Make it, um, whatever the opposite of flying under the radar is—hop on top of your pop? Tickle your pickle? Drive over your bridge? Straddle your face in the literary sense? I have no idea. The point is, this book is a wonderful mix of alternate history, mystery, the arcane, and Victorian atmosphere. David Liss, who writes killer historical fiction, has been spreading his tendrils into more fantastic fare of late and he’s got a real gift for it. The characters he develops over the course of this fantastical tale are so endearing that I took my time down the homestretch of this book because I didn’t want it to come to an end; I wanted to keep hanging out with them. If you dig stuff like Vaughn Entwistle’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, this should definitely be on your reading list.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This author usually writes historical fiction, but in this case he has written a fantasy set in 1899 London. About a decade earlier, certain peculiarities began to appear. Women are giving birth to rabbits, there is an outbreak of lycanthropy, children have lobster claws instead of hands, a killer fog enters homes, etc. Thomas Thresher has been forced to work at the boring job of clerk in the bank founded by his grandfather. If he doesn’t work there, he won’t receive the inheritance left to him This author usually writes historical fiction, but in this case he has written a fantasy set in 1899 London. About a decade earlier, certain peculiarities began to appear. Women are giving birth to rabbits, there is an outbreak of lycanthropy, children have lobster claws instead of hands, a killer fog enters homes, etc. Thomas Thresher has been forced to work at the boring job of clerk in the bank founded by his grandfather. If he doesn’t work there, he won’t receive the inheritance left to him by his father, and he needs the money since he had been leading a pretty feckless life. Secretly, Thomas has his own peculiarity. He has begun to sprout leaves. The book uses a very light touch to combine magic, the occult, astral projection, Greek mythology, complicated family dynamics, mild romance and mathematics. Thomas develops a backbone as he tries to save the bank, find the source of the peculiarities and discover why his brother William is forcing him to marry Esther Feldstein. Thomas is charming, the book has both humor and action and the plot kept me interested. Hannibal Hills was an excellent narrator of the audiobook. The voices he used for both the male and female characters were wonderful. I received a free copy of this audiobook from the publisher.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... This is a new author for me. I thought this was a terrific, original read. I will definitely read more of the author’s work. I knew I’d love the book within a couple of pages and I was right. The Peculiarities is a blend of historical fiction, horror and fantasy and offers something very different. I’ve never read anything quite like it. I loved the way the author blends the supernatural events plaguing London and magic and more everyday common events such https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... This is a new author for me. I thought this was a terrific, original read. I will definitely read more of the author’s work. I knew I’d love the book within a couple of pages and I was right. The Peculiarities is a blend of historical fiction, horror and fantasy and offers something very different. I’ve never read anything quite like it. I loved the way the author blends the supernatural events plaguing London and magic and more everyday common events such as the Thomas uncovering suspicious transactions at the bank and the tense family relationship between Thomas and Walter. Aleister Crowley, the real-life, notorious occultist plays a key role in the novel. I’ve read other books featuring him and liked the way he’s portrayed here. This is a fantastic, unique read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this historical fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I have never read anything by this author before.  This be the story of Thomas Thresher, a layabout second son from a rich banking family in London.  He has problems including finally being forced to work at the family business, an arranged marriage, and the fact that leaves are spouting out of his body.  Of course weird Peculiarities like evil fog an Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this historical fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I have never read anything by this author before.  This be the story of Thomas Thresher, a layabout second son from a rich banking family in London.  He has problems including finally being forced to work at the family business, an arranged marriage, and the fact that leaves are spouting out of his body.  Of course weird Peculiarities like evil fog and women giving birth to rabbits are happening to other folk.  But those people are poor.  The rich believe that magic doesn't really exist.  The leaves on Thomas suggest otherwise.  Does the bank have something to do with these Peculiarities?  Thomas has to find out. I really enjoyed the world set up by the author.  It takes place in 1899 and deals with the idea that magic is popping up in the major cities in unusual ways.  The idea of what these Peculiarities are and how they manifest that was the highlight of the book for me.  I also enjoyed the changes the author made in terms of how he incorporates the alternate history. The downside of this book was that I never really enjoyed the main character.  Thomas was rather insufferable and has very little agency.  Even though he improves in the book, his upper class viewpoints and self-centeredness did grate.  The anti-Semitism in the book was revolting even while Thomas changes his mind about the Jewish love interest.   I know why the anti-Semitism was there but I didn't like it.  There was also an attempted rape scene that was icky. I don't have regrets about reading this but it is by no means a favorite.  Arrrr! So lastly . . . Thank you Tachyon!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    1899. London is about to turn a new century leaf and life has never been stranger. In fact, it’s downright peculiar. There are irregularities with the world, women are birthing rabbits, people are changing appearances, magic seems to be on the rise but there are few who can understand it and fewer still to control it. A challenging time to come of age and for a young Mr. Thresher, a scion to a prosperous banking family, it is a belated in many ways ascendance. All he has known until now was a l 1899. London is about to turn a new century leaf and life has never been stranger. In fact, it’s downright peculiar. There are irregularities with the world, women are birthing rabbits, people are changing appearances, magic seems to be on the rise but there are few who can understand it and fewer still to control it. A challenging time to come of age and for a young Mr. Thresher, a scion to a prosperous banking family, it is a belated in many ways ascendance. All he has known until now was a life of leisure, funded by his older brother, the bank’s director. Now he has been brought into the family business and the most unreasonable of demands have been laid upon him, mainly he is to marry a wealthy Jewish young woman…a woman he finds as unattractive of a prospect as the marriage itself. There is also a not insignificant matter of him slowly but surely turning into a tree. So why is this marriage so important? Why has the bank been giving out strange loans and acquiring seemingly random properties all over London? What’s the deal with the Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn? Time to step it up, roll up one’s sleeves (if only to find leaves sprouting there) and solve a few mysteries. And there you have it. A very entertaining historical fantasy or alternate historical reimagining of a fascinating magic soaked London. Plenty of mysteries to solve, plenty of action, suspense, romance, etc. It’s a story about magic that actually manages to be magical. And a pleasure to spend time with. Slightly longer than ideal, but read well. The narrative unfolded itself in an exciting and imaginative manner. It did remind me of something so much the entire time and I can’t quite put a finger to it still, so it was like a two day déjà vu for no reason. And I found some of the plot twists (especially those of personal nature) to be quite predictable. But overall it was well worth a read. London, as many places, has been reimagined as magical before, but it’s always nice when it’s done as proper literature. So yes, charmed, I’m sure. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley. This and more at https://advancetheplot.weebly.com/

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    4 stars--I really liked it. This book wanders a bit at the beginning, much as the protagonist wanders in indecision and inaction. The last quarter of the book, however, makes up for this with a riot of action. This is a strange book full of whimsy--but also horror. It combines a Victorian novel of manners with magic and even a Lovecraftian monster. I enjoyed the characters and the depth of imagination.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brandee

    Check out this review and more on The Quill to Live! I rarely seek out historical fantasy because I like my books to be far removed from the world I know. However, there is one thing that will get me every time: stories set in London. So here I go, off into the strange London depicted in The Peculiarities by David Liss. Thomas Thresher is the shunned youngest son of a successful banking family. Left to his own devices, Thomas indulged in a 19th-century, party boy lifestyle in London which made deb Check out this review and more on The Quill to Live! I rarely seek out historical fantasy because I like my books to be far removed from the world I know. However, there is one thing that will get me every time: stories set in London. So here I go, off into the strange London depicted in The Peculiarities by David Liss. Thomas Thresher is the shunned youngest son of a successful banking family. Left to his own devices, Thomas indulged in a 19th-century, party boy lifestyle in London which made debauchery look downright proper with men gallivanting around in their fancy hats and suits. Thomas had a fun run. That is until his father died. The will demands that Thomas must begin working at the bank as a junior clerk and learn the ways of the family business. He is then placed under the watchful eye of his sour older brother, Walter, who is intent on making Thomas’ life miserable. You see, Walter has insisted that Thomas marry Miss Esther Feldstein, and that simply can’t happen because, well, he doesn’t want to, and secondly, leaves are growing out of his skin. As strange occurrences appropriately named the Peculiarities sweep through the city, Thomas learns that his brother’s seemingly petty actions are for a larger, mysterious goal. I would not have enjoyed this story half as much if it weren’t for Thomas. He is endearingly proper and hopeless in both normal and magical situations. Thomas is intelligent but often blunders his way through the story’s events - with a lot of decorum, I may add. His life is incredibly dull and meaningless when we meet him, which accounts for some great deadpan musings. But as the story progresses, a more sincere and thoughtful side of him develops. My anxiety ramped up as the cards stacked up against Thomas, but he never wallowed in it. Thomas simply picked the leaves off his skin and set about his next task as if the world wasn’t coming to an end. He absolutely had moments of doubt and fear, but it was such a fleeting thing. I don’t know what hard stuff Thomas is made of but apparently, it is tree bark. There are a lot of peculiar things happening in this book. Magical ailments are afflicting the city and causing all sorts of chaos. Thomas is sprouting leaves of course, but others have lost facial features, developed wings and, uh, tentacles, while some turn into proper werewolves. As in, they still possess all the charm of a Londoner just with fur, wolfish features, and no bloodlust. There’s also the small fact that women are giving birth to rabbits. And there are creatures called The Elegants who are murdering people in the streets a la Jack the Ripper. The oddest thing in this story is not the Peculiarities themselves, but the fact that there’s not a whole lot of explanation surrounding their existence or why they occur. Upon finishing the book I’m not entirely sure I know what any of it means, and I’m not certain I’m supposed to know. The Peculiarities is told in a series of vignettes, so we’re constantly jumping from scene to scene. Thomas will interact with key characters, collect a bread crumb of information for the mystery, and dip out. Rinse and repeat. Because of this, there isn’t an established sense of time which is disorienting especially when Thomas wants us to feel like he’s racing against the clock. This type of storytelling means we never explore the story or characters in a meaningful way. It is also why I can’t describe the whole peculiarities business. This book will satisfy anyone looking for a fast plot and unique world, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by not getting a full scope of the story. The ending especially felt unfinished to me, but it does stay true to the book’s writing style. Explanations are not guaranteed or explored in-depth, so we are left to wonder on our own as to what it all means. Will you enjoy this book? I think so. Thomas is too precious not to root for, and if you look past the story gaps you can enjoy the heroism of a clueless man trying to set the world right. Rating: The Peculiarities - 6.5/10 An ARC of this book was provided to us in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Simons

    While the narration was above average, overall, the narrator tries hard to distinguish the characters with voice, which was quite helpful. But I found myself unable to connect with any of the characters, especially the main character. The prose was not to my taste either. Lots of exposition feels like it’s trying to explain away lots of main character's actions, who doesn’t feel like a strong protagonist. It’s not a bad read. I think fans of this kind of historical fantasy that is growing in popu While the narration was above average, overall, the narrator tries hard to distinguish the characters with voice, which was quite helpful. But I found myself unable to connect with any of the characters, especially the main character. The prose was not to my taste either. Lots of exposition feels like it’s trying to explain away lots of main character's actions, who doesn’t feel like a strong protagonist. It’s not a bad read. I think fans of this kind of historical fantasy that is growing in popularity might find more here to connect with than me, provided they can stick it through the first half where the main character is a bit of a jerk.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kaeli

    I'm not really a fan of the writing style in this book, it feels like the author is trying too hard to make themselves sound smart, which they do, don't get me wrong. I read to escape not to read a page only to have to reread it approximately 3 more times simply to understand what the author is trying to portray. I'm not really a fan of the writing style in this book, it feels like the author is trying too hard to make themselves sound smart, which they do, don't get me wrong. I read to escape not to read a page only to have to reread it approximately 3 more times simply to understand what the author is trying to portray.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Before reading his The Peculiarities, I was unfamiliar with David Liss' work. But recently, my GoodReads friends have been talking a lot about both this book in particular and Liss' work in general, so I requested this title for review—and I'm quite glad I did. The Peculiarities is a sort of historical mystery-fantasy novel. At the turn of the 20th Century strange things have been happening—the transformation of people into wolves or trees, women giving birth to litters of rabbits, elegent, facel Before reading his The Peculiarities, I was unfamiliar with David Liss' work. But recently, my GoodReads friends have been talking a lot about both this book in particular and Liss' work in general, so I requested this title for review—and I'm quite glad I did. The Peculiarities is a sort of historical mystery-fantasy novel. At the turn of the 20th Century strange things have been happening—the transformation of people into wolves or trees, women giving birth to litters of rabbits, elegent, faceless dead people attacking the poorer classes of London—and all these happenings have been accompanied by strange mists that linger for days, sometimes growing tentacles and attempting to murder people. Liss takes his readers on a wild ride. I was absolutely fascinated by the first half of this novel. Events got stranger and stranger. I kept asking myself somewhat stunned questions. What is Liss going to throw in next? How are all these disparate elements going to merge into a coherent story? In the second half of the novel these many elements do come together, though I was almost disappointed that they did. I could have spent hundreds of pages more following Liss into his bizarre alternative London. The fully realized story line was interesting, but somewhat less original than the events leading up to it. If you like fantasy novels or alternative histories, you're going to love this title. If you've had little experience with these genres, The Peculiarities is a good place to start. Liss will keep you thinking and keep dealing out surprises. I received a free electronic review copy of this title; the opinions are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 7th, 2021. Writing: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 5/5 In the Age of Peculiarities, women give birth to rabbits, well-dressed ghouls roam the streets of London, individuals start sprouting leaves, and terrible luck to those who break contracts — though these oddities mostly impact the very poorest, so who cares? It’s 1899 and Thomas Threshe Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 7th, 2021. Writing: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 5/5 In the Age of Peculiarities, women give birth to rabbits, well-dressed ghouls roam the streets of London, individuals start sprouting leaves, and terrible luck to those who break contracts — though these oddities mostly impact the very poorest, so who cares? It’s 1899 and Thomas Thresher — the younger, largely ignored, son of the Thresher banking family — turns to the occult to find out why the bank seems so very involved in the pervasive disasters. He seeks to save the bank and return it to its original charter — to serve those with nowhere else to go. Portals to astral realms, a magical society, and Aleister Crowley himself are at the center of this wild-ride style adventure. Plenty of surprises, wry asides, and a strong sense of duty — but what I really love is that the ability to see and manipulate the patterns within mathematics is the powerful magic that is able to do what the best stylings of the Crowley gang cannot. A real page-turner — well-written, humorous, exciting, and with a wide array of interesting, non-stereotypical, characters. Good for fans of Alix E. Harrow and Susannah Clark.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anj✨

    Set in 1899 London, Thomas Thresher has been forced to work a clerical job in the bank owned by his family, in an arranged marriage, and well, leaves began sprouting out of his body. The Peculiarities is an original and peculiar (see what I did there?) novel. It's a historical fantasy that combines occult, Greek myth, and horror. And as the book progresses, things keep on getting bizarre, I love it! The Victorian London setting was vividly detailed, refreshing, and atmospheric. The writing style e Set in 1899 London, Thomas Thresher has been forced to work a clerical job in the bank owned by his family, in an arranged marriage, and well, leaves began sprouting out of his body. The Peculiarities is an original and peculiar (see what I did there?) novel. It's a historical fantasy that combines occult, Greek myth, and horror. And as the book progresses, things keep on getting bizarre, I love it! The Victorian London setting was vividly detailed, refreshing, and atmospheric. The writing style emulates the period it was set and a bit modernized. The plot started slow, and hit its stride upon hitting 25%. It has plenty of surprises and ridiculously good! My only issue is that the readers are kept at a distance from the main character. It made it reading a bit of a struggle. Overall, The Peculiarities is an enjoyable read. It's refreshing, humorous, thought-provoking, and intriguing. Big thanks to Tachyon Publications and Netgalley for my review copy. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Scott Roark

    That was an amazing story. It was recommended to me and at first I was skeptical. But fascinating, engrossing and beautifully written with a wry humor that had me laugh out loud at a turn of a phrase.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    I'm afraid this one may slip through the cracks. David Liss is a successful author of historical fiction, especially dealing with finance, commodities and economics in the 17th and 18th centuries, both in Europe and America. More recently he has also done some middle grade science fiction books, and a Spider-man novel. “The Peculiarities” goes back to his historical fiction roots, with a twist. In 1899 London, some people are sprouting unusual abnormalities (dog hair, leaves, stranger things) that I'm afraid this one may slip through the cracks. David Liss is a successful author of historical fiction, especially dealing with finance, commodities and economics in the 17th and 18th centuries, both in Europe and America. More recently he has also done some middle grade science fiction books, and a Spider-man novel. “The Peculiarities” goes back to his historical fiction roots, with a twist. In 1899 London, some people are sprouting unusual abnormalities (dog hair, leaves, stranger things) that are ignored as much as possible by polite society. There are also strange human-like creatures appearing and slaughtering random people, although mostly in the poor sections of town. So far this sounds like a classic Victorian urban fantasy, and the genre publisher (Tachyon) would seem to reinforce that. However, Tachyon has never before published a Liss book. His publishing history is with Simon & Shuster and Random House. However, he draws on his historical fiction interests in the plotline: the protagonist is the younger son in a banking family who is being manipulated. He is being forced into an arranged marriage with a Jewish woman from a wealthy family, although his family frowns on Jews. Many of Liss' protagonists have been Jewish, so that's also something in common with his earlier books. So...how is this being marketed? I'm afraid the indie publisher won't be able to reach his historical fiction readers, and I'm afraid the genre readers who aren't familiar with Liss will pass on this Tachyon title. And that would be a shame. This book has the same strengths as his historical fiction, plus elements of magic and supernatural strangeness of an urban fantasy. Too many urban fantasies read like contemporary novels dressed up with vintage clothing and steam engines; Liss writes believable prose from that time period, as a good historical fiction author should. Liss gave a hint of his interest in magic in 2011 with “The Twelfth Enchantment”, but then seemed to step away. He's come back with a strong book about Victorian magic (featuring Aleister Crowley) in this alternative history of late Victorian London.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ada Ross

    What a slovenly wreck of wasted potential. This book had a charming premise, an interesting take on a supernatural historical fantasy, and the promise of comedy to recommend it. While many of these elements were present in the text, they were handled so ineptly, I almost wish they'd been omitted instead. Though I'm tempted to dissect all of the things about this book that I found to be frustrating, I'll keep it to just the biggest issues: the pacing, the chronic repetition, and the author's cring What a slovenly wreck of wasted potential. This book had a charming premise, an interesting take on a supernatural historical fantasy, and the promise of comedy to recommend it. While many of these elements were present in the text, they were handled so ineptly, I almost wish they'd been omitted instead. Though I'm tempted to dissect all of the things about this book that I found to be frustrating, I'll keep it to just the biggest issues: the pacing, the chronic repetition, and the author's cringey insistence upon explaining things to the reader which do not require an explanation. This novel is criminally bad in pacing. The opening feels like a genuine leap into a distant and interesting world, but almost immediately, you hit one of Liss' numerous literary voids. We are introduced to the principle cast, told of the major (known) conflict at the center of their common interests, and then... nothing. Nothing happens. (Well, rarely.) The characters chase each other around, Scooby-Doo style for hundreds of pages, debating and interviewing each other for the same information over and over until the final few chapters. At that point, the plot suddenly shifts into overdrive, and we are treated to a bewildering explosion of information, most of which should have been introduced MUCH sooner to have any relevance to the characters. And then, it's over. I simply can not express fully just how dull and lifeless 80% of the book was. The fact that this lusterless glut of nothingness was bookended by the lively and interesting opening and closing chapters is an infuriating invitation to comparison. As to the repetitious nature of the text, the cyclical way in which information was constantly reintroduced (as if for the first time, every time), and characters were described was *maddening*. This problem presented itself very early on, but I dismissed it initially out of a desire to give the book a chance, and an assumption that it was intended to ease the reader into an unusual fantasy environment. Had this been true, I may have been more inclined to forgive it, but the lack of plot progression mingled with the simplistic literary environment to which we were ultimately introduced, renders this impossible. It's just needless repetition, and it seemingly exists due to a lack of care in editing rather than anything else. While I found the repetition to be insufferable, the most truly insulting aspect of this book was the way in which David Liss seemed to view his readership's intelligence. Liss doesn't explain everything in his book, though further elucidation would have been useful in regards to the abandoned plot threads, or elaborate system of magic in the story. However, the things that he chooses to explain are invariably the elements he borrowed from history and society in our own world. In other words, things that virtually no reader of a historical novel would actually NEED to have explained to them. For instance, I find it very hard to believe that a person inclined to pick up and read this book would need to have someone describe who Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, the diminished legal rights of women in Victorian London, or what kinds of entertainments a brothel offers. And yet, all of these things (and so much more) are explained to us in careful, minute detail, usually multiple times. As a separate criticism from the themes already addressed, I'd like to make special note of the author's decision to make one of the main characters Jewish. While I understand that Liss himself is Jewish, the way in which he handles Esther Feldstein's presence in this story is by simply making her a constant object of ridicule for the gentiles around her at any given time. Her Jewishness is an cause for mirth and scorn, and the constant anti-Semitic banter between characters is never addressed in a meaningful way, nor does Esther herself confront or overcome any of the social obstacles Liss implies that her ethnicity and faith would represent. I am not Jewish, and can not speak for how such a character should be represented in a historical fantasy setting. However, I can speak to an abandoned plot thread (there are many), and Miss Feldstein's social identity as a Jewish woman represents possibly the biggest example of this. This was a book that I greatly anticipated reading, and perhaps I would have judged it less harshly had my expectations been less elevated. The Peculiarities is a perfect example of a great idea that was ruined by a lack of focus in the telling. This is a very, VERY rough read. How can a novel that addresses Victorian occult spiritualism, hybrid humans, mass murder, and magic, all in the course of resolving a significant and interesting mystery, be this boring?? I do not recommend this novel in its current form. If the author ever chose to revisit it as a novella or short story, I think it would probably be a vastly superior product. As it is now, it's just an unwieldy mess.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate Hyde

    My thanks to Netgalley for allowing me an ARC of this book, which might have otherwise escaped my notice. And it was well worth the read, both in itself and as a portal to a formerly unread author; I shall certainly be delving into Mr Liss' back catalogue. In The Peculiarities, he achieves a perfect mix of Victorian gothic, alternate history, fantasy and mystery, well glued together with great characters and atmosphere, and even some very dry and witty humor. I forced many of his quotes upon my w My thanks to Netgalley for allowing me an ARC of this book, which might have otherwise escaped my notice. And it was well worth the read, both in itself and as a portal to a formerly unread author; I shall certainly be delving into Mr Liss' back catalogue. In The Peculiarities, he achieves a perfect mix of Victorian gothic, alternate history, fantasy and mystery, well glued together with great characters and atmosphere, and even some very dry and witty humor. I forced many of his quotes upon my work colleagues, and they had to agree, it was as if Liss had worked with us, so perfectly had he captured (via Thomas Thresher) the futility and absurd bureaucracy of our workplace. That alone made Thomas a sympathetic character, but the alternative London of the day was well drawn also. The secondary characters, Thomas' putative wife Esther, and the wretched but highly amusing Aleister Crowley, were excellent too, aided by Liss' faux formal Victorian language - formal enough to get the reader in the mood, and to accurately reflect the tone of the day, but not so stilted as to be off-putting or to impede the flow of the plot. And the ending was good too, giving us the ultimate showdown, but not quite the ultimate resolution that we would get with a more hackneyed author. Recommended for fans of Susannah Clarke and Katherine Addison.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    The Peculiarities was an enjoyable fantasy adventure story. I liked the style of the narration, which worked well for the piece, and I had fun following Thomas on his journey as he fought to find the truth behind the goings on at his family bank while also combating the supernatural threat of the Peculiarities. It was amusing to see some real life figures like Aleister Crowley make an appearance in the tale, giving the book the vibe of an alternate history. The world building was mostly well don The Peculiarities was an enjoyable fantasy adventure story. I liked the style of the narration, which worked well for the piece, and I had fun following Thomas on his journey as he fought to find the truth behind the goings on at his family bank while also combating the supernatural threat of the Peculiarities. It was amusing to see some real life figures like Aleister Crowley make an appearance in the tale, giving the book the vibe of an alternate history. The world building was mostly well done. I had a few questions, but in general we only learnt more as Thomas learnt more, and he did not have a perfect knowledge of how everything worked, so neither could we. I didn't really get the vibe of his first romantic relationship, where love seemed to spring up almost instantaneously; however, the other relationships in the book came across well. Overall, this is a different and intriguing tale and I recommend it to fantasy fans looking for something with a bit of a twist. For me it was a 4-star read. I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jacq

    This was as it's title suggests peculiar. The writing style is different and I found I had to really concentrate on the words. It has an old-time sort if writing style reminiscent of the century that it's based in but slightly modernized. It's written in second person? Which I always find hard to connect with personally as I'm reading. I did not like the main character at all, he seemed very dull and obstinate. The story takes a while for anything to really happen and gain momentum. The aspect of This was as it's title suggests peculiar. The writing style is different and I found I had to really concentrate on the words. It has an old-time sort if writing style reminiscent of the century that it's based in but slightly modernized. It's written in second person? Which I always find hard to connect with personally as I'm reading. I did not like the main character at all, he seemed very dull and obstinate. The story takes a while for anything to really happen and gain momentum. The aspect of the Peculiarities was a very interesting concept with interesting characters, as well as the inclusion of literary influences such as Doyle and Crowley. This is not a bad read and I can see why there are people who enjoyed it, it just was not a read that I was expecting from it's description and all together. I do urge people to read it and see for themselves as I am sure it will be a treat for some or not for others.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hélène Louise

    The Pecularities was a very good read, I particularly appreciated how the historical atmosphere was done, with a lot of actual references, real characters and facts mixed with magic. The apparition of alternative humans, the reality of the consequences of breaking oaths, all the bizarreries of a world slowly but ineluctably changing made for a very attractive read. Guessing things was also quite enjoyable, especially when one was still surprise in the end. Incidentally (I was curious and went goo The Pecularities was a very good read, I particularly appreciated how the historical atmosphere was done, with a lot of actual references, real characters and facts mixed with magic. The apparition of alternative humans, the reality of the consequences of breaking oaths, all the bizarreries of a world slowly but ineluctably changing made for a very attractive read. Guessing things was also quite enjoyable, especially when one was still surprise in the end. Incidentally (I was curious and went googling) there actually was a real story about a woman who supposedly gave birth to rabbits - even if it wasn't anything like live ones and if it's rather easy to understand how the entourage was mistaken and thought she could have been gravid with rabbits (of course, she wasn't !). Another strong point was the strong underlining feminism, without any anachronic modernism. And to finish, the cover is gorgeous and the reason why I first spotted the book! Paragraphe (I thank Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for sending me the ARC in exchange for my honest review)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura Denton

    Opening as historical fiction set at the turn of the century (20th), The Peculiarities portrays a young man stuck in conventions, with a career he inherited and his bride chosen for him. Then, shifting, the book begins to give hints of the Peculiarities (capital P): a fog that seems to be alive, afflictions that befall those who break contracts, and other unusual occurrences. Though these may seem like rumors, recognition of their commonplace nature begins to be apparent. No history we’ve ever h Opening as historical fiction set at the turn of the century (20th), The Peculiarities portrays a young man stuck in conventions, with a career he inherited and his bride chosen for him. Then, shifting, the book begins to give hints of the Peculiarities (capital P): a fog that seems to be alive, afflictions that befall those who break contracts, and other unusual occurrences. Though these may seem like rumors, recognition of their commonplace nature begins to be apparent. No history we’ve ever heard of! Thomas, second son in a banking family, is introduced as the family puppet, directed to marry a good connection for the bank - perhaps an infusion of money. The tedium of his work is overwhelming, yet Thomas learns of some odd business practices and is inspired to act. The mystery is slowly unfurling: What is it about the bank’s operational procedures? What is it about the Peculiarities? It’s a race against time and a series of surrealistic obstacles. I’ve read all of David Liss’s historical and literary novels and they never fail to please. (I just don’t happen to be into his other genre of action/comics hero.) I’ve been missing him and was happy to hear of this new book. I appreciate his ability to write in the style of the time period and his tongue in cheek sense of humor! Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

    Upfront: I have always been a fan of David Liss' novels, even since A Conspiracy of Paper. I love the way he explores hidden history through his stories. His writing is peppered with the type of small details that bring a moment in time alive. Yet, his novels are more than simply history lessons. He tells a wonderful story with fascinating characters. I was excited to have the opportunity to read an advanced copy of his new novel, The Peculiarities, courtesy of NetGalley and Tachyon Publications Upfront: I have always been a fan of David Liss' novels, even since A Conspiracy of Paper. I love the way he explores hidden history through his stories. His writing is peppered with the type of small details that bring a moment in time alive. Yet, his novels are more than simply history lessons. He tells a wonderful story with fascinating characters. I was excited to have the opportunity to read an advanced copy of his new novel, The Peculiarities, courtesy of NetGalley and Tachyon Publications in exchange for an objective review. Set in vividly detailed Victorialn London, The Peculiarities is historical fiction with a supernatural bent, a comic picaresque romp, a love story, an extraordinary fantasy where women give birth to rabbits and men slowly turn into trees, and a riveting drama of a banking family slowly being destroyed from within. Liss' tale is filled with familiar faces, including Aleister Crowley, and Arthur Conan Doyle tangled up in complex and murderous conspiracies and secret societies. A young Thomas Thresheis is set on discovering why his family bank appears to be purposefully failing, and why his brother is dead set on Thomas marrying a woman he does not love. There is so much plot afoot, and rather than causing considerable confusion, it's great but serious fun as the stakes are high. It is a different and mesmerizing tale, drenched in both history and fantasy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

    David Liss is known for his somewhat baroque novels usually dealing with finance or speculation or similar matters revolving around money, and this novel is no different. In an England wherein people are turning into animals and women truly are giving birth to rabbits, a young man of a banking family finds strange goings-on in the bank and investigates, learning about the real-life Hermetic Order of the Ancient Dawn and coming into contact with figures like William Butler Yeats, Aleister Crowley David Liss is known for his somewhat baroque novels usually dealing with finance or speculation or similar matters revolving around money, and this novel is no different. In an England wherein people are turning into animals and women truly are giving birth to rabbits, a young man of a banking family finds strange goings-on in the bank and investigates, learning about the real-life Hermetic Order of the Ancient Dawn and coming into contact with figures like William Butler Yeats, Aleister Crowley, and others. With the help of a motley group of friends and allies, he must use maths as magic to stop extra-dimensional killers and the bank's board from bringing about worldwide devastation. Liss's writing style is meant to emulate the writers of the period, but I've never thought this to be very good--instead, in instills a sense of dullness to the writing and to the plot and feelings of the characters, and I find it incredibly distasteful to emulate, unchecked, the antisemitism and other prejudices of the time period. But if you don't mind that the narrator is an antisemite and mostly a jerk, feel free to read. It's too bad that Liss's desire to recreate the nastier aspects of Victorian writing overshadow theclever ideas that make up the plot and the interesting characters.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Where have the books by David Liss been all my life? I like books that are different, odd, and peculiar and The Peculiarities certainly is. You want creepy, murderous monsters? Liss gives us The Elegants. We have some kindly werewolves, people who turn into trees, mathematical solutions, and the infamous Aleister Crowley, a real person (though odd) borrowed from history. Holding the story together is the protagonist, Thomas, who responds to the bizarre goings-on as a proper Victorian gentleman. W Where have the books by David Liss been all my life? I like books that are different, odd, and peculiar and The Peculiarities certainly is. You want creepy, murderous monsters? Liss gives us The Elegants. We have some kindly werewolves, people who turn into trees, mathematical solutions, and the infamous Aleister Crowley, a real person (though odd) borrowed from history. Holding the story together is the protagonist, Thomas, who responds to the bizarre goings-on as a proper Victorian gentleman. When asked by a man married to a werewolf what he thinks of that, Thomas replies, "I celebrate your domestic happiness." He always has the right, though often baffled, reply. Thomas grows as a character. At the beginning, when his brother demands he marry a certain woman, Thomas can't imagine marrying a Jewish woman. As the novel goes on, Thomas realizes how narrow his rich white man Victorian view has been. A new world, and worlds, open to him. The Peculiarities is strange and humorous, gory and startling, and thought-provoking while being lots of fun to read. Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to read an eARC in return for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    The Starry Library

    The Peculiarities is a unique occult tale about a young banker who becomes embroiled in a supernatural mystery set in Victorian London. A mysterious fog, strange maladies, and deadly creatures wreak havoc in an increasingly magical oriented London in this entertaining alternative history novel. I have never read a book quite like this before which I am very pleased about. This was a quirky and unusual story with intriguing characters suffering from an array of pecuilarities that made this book ab The Peculiarities is a unique occult tale about a young banker who becomes embroiled in a supernatural mystery set in Victorian London. A mysterious fog, strange maladies, and deadly creatures wreak havoc in an increasingly magical oriented London in this entertaining alternative history novel. I have never read a book quite like this before which I am very pleased about. This was a quirky and unusual story with intriguing characters suffering from an array of pecuilarities that made this book absurd, devilishly comedic, and curious. In this story the magic of Victorian London was not something hidden, but rather, out in the open and accepted. The secret societies, dark magic, and deadly plots conjured an arcane story about the power of being different in a world on the cusp of a supernatural transformation. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this free ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    The Damsel in the Library

    *Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.* 3.5 stars We follow Thomas, a bank worker, who lives in a London beset by magical problems which manifest as thick fogs, people growing fur, women giving birth to rabbits and other such Peculiarities. Thomas is becoming a tree. Faced with his impending wooden life, he wants to make sure his family’s bank has a stable future. But it turns out that the bank’s secrets and his *Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review.* 3.5 stars We follow Thomas, a bank worker, who lives in a London beset by magical problems which manifest as thick fogs, people growing fur, women giving birth to rabbits and other such Peculiarities. Thomas is becoming a tree. Faced with his impending wooden life, he wants to make sure his family’s bank has a stable future. But it turns out that the bank’s secrets and his own leafy limbs may be connected. This book is weird, and quite a different experience compared to Liss’ Benjamin Weaver series (which I love and adore). Its weirdness is so close to being bad that at the start I wasn’t sure I’d like it. I think the plot could’ve been tighter. Maybe if it had a smaller cast or took place in a shorter time frame the wrinkles would’ve smoothed out. I do like it though; it’s got a nice blend of mystery, magic, intrigue, and adventure. The bank, the magical shenanigans, and Thomas fighting against becoming a tree sound like a strange combination but it’s a decent result. However, there is something…off about it. I don’t know what it is, but there’s a persistent blemish on the periphery that tarnishes the whole thing. One obvious oddity is that it’s written in present tense. I’ve read a lot of books but rarely do I come across anything written in present tense. I don’t dislike that style but I don’t think the book is better because of that choice. The tone is kinda devil-may-care, so I didn’t feel the danger or urgency. I prefer lighter stories but this crust of levity doesn’t quite mesh with the dangerous London streets and it feels like I’m being pulled in different directions. Blending historical fiction and fantasy—my two favorite story elements—is a great idea. The history here isn’t at the forefront but it makes for a nice background along the lines of Sherlock Holmes (particularly Robert Downey Jr.’s iteration of Holmes). The use of magic isn’t flashy; it takes the mystical and cultish angle, relying on drawn symbols, talismans, and incantations. Thomas is very vanilla, but I like him. I don’t think he’s all that charming, interesting or memorable, but he’s determined, not a quitter and at times humorous. He’s a normal guy put in extraordinary circumstances and he makes it fly. The rest of the cast is what I’ve grown to expect from Liss: a solid collection of foes and friends, but they seem a little less full than his previous books. The women are strong without being overbearing and yet they lack real substance. I learned a few surface traits about them but their voices aren’t distinct nor do they have presence on the page. They’re there, and that’s it. I love Liss’ description, dialogue and prose in the Weaver series, and it’s slightly watered down here. Maybe it’s because I read an early copy but it doesn’t feel as lush and striking as his other books, though I can still see everything clearly and there are some great lines. Thomas believes he has done a fine job of remaining sane the past weeks, but it has been a taxing day, and surely no one would blame him if he simply went mad. He does not want to start talking about maths, however. There is nothing that makes a man sound less heroic. There are swords and spears and wands, some displayed as though museum pieces, others simply lying about as though Crowley might have need to grab a spear at any moment and—who can say?—hurl it at an astral antelope. Anything is possible. As often happens when a man discusses mathematics, the room remains silent. Thomas sets aside his outrage and shock and disgust. It is time to panic. I wanted it to be more like the Weaver books and since it’s quite dissimilar, I am a bit disappointed. However, I still think it’s a good, entertaining story, one I may even revisit. I will certainly continue to read his books, both past and future. For more of my reviews, visit my blog: https://damselinthelibrary.wixsite.co...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Poptart19 (the name’s ren)

    3 stars Not the best historical fiction or character development I’ve ever read, but I was entertained. I liked the urban fantasy elements, & some of the creative twists on magic. [What I liked:] •I loved the whole take on mathematical magic & esoteric algorithms! I mean it’s not fully explained how it all works in its technicalities, but I really appreciated the concept! I love algorithms, & they deserve more love & appreciation in this world 💙 It’s also cool how Thomas was able to apply his uni 3 stars Not the best historical fiction or character development I’ve ever read, but I was entertained. I liked the urban fantasy elements, & some of the creative twists on magic. [What I liked:] •I loved the whole take on mathematical magic & esoteric algorithms! I mean it’s not fully explained how it all works in its technicalities, but I really appreciated the concept! I love algorithms, & they deserve more love & appreciation in this world 💙 It’s also cool how Thomas was able to apply his unique talents/skills to solve problems in innovative ways when the “standard” approaches to magic didn’t work out for him. •I mean it’s pretty hokey & clichéd, but I genuinely appreciated the climax scene (when Thomas is all tied up)! It’s pretty much straight out of a classic 1930’s/pre-code Universal Studios horror film…! *cough* The Black Cat *cough* Which is an excellent homage/pastiche tribute imo. •Some aspects of the characters, storylines, absurdities, & setting vaguely reminded me of a Dickens novel, which is a plus in my book. •”The Elegants” is a pretty great term for vampire-esque creatures, I have to say 😁 [What I didn’t like as much:] •In some ways the world building was unique & decently fleshed out (the mathematical magic concept is cool, the nuances of the social status dynamics of the “peculiars” in society, & how different “peculiars” felt about their changes, etc.). In other ways, it was a bit clichéd & half-baked (the whole astral-projection thing & how people got “infected” by peculiarities was never satisfactorily explained, & I can’t *tell* you how many books I’ve read recently where one of the main characters is in the process of becoming a tree—like it’s an interesting but kinda random trend lately?). •Meh, Thomas is the textbook example of a casually racist, sexist, privileged white dude who is clueless about his shortcomings, yet is portrayed as vaguely well meaning (although tbf, it’s not an unrealistic portrayal, I reckon). I mean he’s not awful, but he’s also not great, & he definitely coulda used some more character growth by the end of the story. •I was a bit underwhelmed by the (not so) big reveal about the character of Walter’s smarmy personal assistant dude. It felt like the story was building up to reveal a lot more substance to him than he ultimately had. •I was bothered by how much this book at least borderline-objectifies women. Every time a woman character is introduced, Thomas and/or other men characters immediately ponder or voice their opinions on how physically attractive that woman character is, & then consciously evaluated their value based on how sexy or conventionally beautiful they were. Every. Single. Goddamn. Time. It felt like the writer—perhaps unintentionally?—was himself objectifying these women characters in the narrative. It’s really shallow & also gross, even though in the Victorian era this mindset was more normalized than it is now; it was still an uncomfortable & ultimately pointless thing to make such a big deal of, imo. •This is a personal taste thing, but I am not a fan of sex magic (in books; I respect other people’s right to personally like &/or do that stuff if they so choose). I realize that weird sex magic was kind of Aleister Crowley’s whole thing irl, but I still find it weird & puzzling as a component of this particular story. Especially because it’s such a major plot point in this book despite the fact that the characters who engage in the aforementioned weird sex magic don’t actually believe in it themselves & didn’t intend for the act to have magical effects, when Aleister Crowley’s whole esoteric belief system was grounded in the need for focused will & intention to make a magical ritual or act effective? 🤷‍♀️ CW: sexism, racism, anti-semitism, weird magical sex, sexual assault, murder, animal torture/sacrifice, infidelity, human sacrifice, (attempted) forced marriage, child neglect, seriously messed up family dynamics [I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Chi Lough

    Review now live at https://www.grimdarkmagazine.com/revi... Peculiarities is a celebration of the strange and the absurd. This alternative historical novel poses the question- what would happen if occult magics were real? Author David Liss answers this question in an immersive read that is a fusion of fantasy, horror, and mystery. Peculiarities takes place at the turn of the 19th century. London’s famous fog has turned sinister, unleashing an incurable ailment known as the Peculiarities. Newspaper Review now live at https://www.grimdarkmagazine.com/revi... Peculiarities is a celebration of the strange and the absurd. This alternative historical novel poses the question- what would happen if occult magics were real? Author David Liss answers this question in an immersive read that is a fusion of fantasy, horror, and mystery. Peculiarities takes place at the turn of the 19th century. London’s famous fog has turned sinister, unleashing an incurable ailment known as the Peculiarities. Newspapers report sightings of the unnatural, of werewolves and ghosts lurking within the gloom. Ghastly mutations emerge, including women giving birth to rabbits. Terrifying beings called Elegants are rumored to be concealed within the fog, murderous and hungry for carnage. The reason for these unsettling events is unknown; however, the impoverished appear to be targeted. Peculiarities examines how government reacts to tragedy striking the more disdained members of society. It is a commentary on how upper-class covers up its own afflictions to their own detriment. Thomas Thresher, the story’s protagonist, is the youngest grandchild to the founder of Thresher’s bank. He is also an unexpected victim of the fog. The Peculiarities’ ailment is quickly transforming him into a tree. With only a limited amount of time before he is rooted in place, Thomas seeks to solve his friend’s mysterious death, avoid getting married, and save his family’s legacy. He must discover the Peculiarities’ secrets to save himself. As Thomas delves deeper into this dark mystery, every part of his life is threatened. David Liss skillfully articulated all aspects of Thomas’s life, creating a truly compelling character. Thomas was born into privilege and is alone because of it. Chained to the will of his brother, he has no say in his choice of work and marriage proposals. I felt immediately invested in this character, wanting him to rise above his drab clerical job. I truly cared about his relationships between his family and friends. Peculiarities is certainly a fantastical story, but it is rooted in human nature, giving it depth and an element of realism that draws the reader in. I did find some of Thomas’s character developments to be a little too favorable. This did not disturb my overall enjoyment of the book. It is dark and weird, bordering on macabre. It is not a traditional read, rather an exploratory story of what could have been. Peculiarities has a satisfying conclusion, but there are still lingering mysteries that I would love answered in a second installment. Peculiarities is an adventure of unraveling conspiracies, exposing London’s most hidden secrets, and witnessing the unexplainable. It is Terry Pratchett’s satire mixed into a darker version of Alice in Wonderland. It is the most bizarre book I’ve read this year.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    The Peculiarities is a historical-fantasy-mystery-thriller chimera with many relevant themes to today's world. "...but everyone is a rotten fellow these days, it is simply the new way of being. People have had their fill of religion and morality. There is nothing to do but enjoy oneself...' Tedious is how I would describe lead character Thomas Thresher, as he would indeed probably describe himself upon reflection. A young man who is forced into the family banking business, he is as listless as he The Peculiarities is a historical-fantasy-mystery-thriller chimera with many relevant themes to today's world. "...but everyone is a rotten fellow these days, it is simply the new way of being. People have had their fill of religion and morality. There is nothing to do but enjoy oneself...' Tedious is how I would describe lead character Thomas Thresher, as he would indeed probably describe himself upon reflection. A young man who is forced into the family banking business, he is as listless as he is privileged, and a bit anti-semitic by way of reflecting "the times," thereby altogether unsympathetic for me...HOWEVER, give it time. As a Jewish woman, believe me, he was hard to take at first, but I trust seasoned author David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper; The Coffee Trader), enough to know there was a purpose for writing Thresher this way. Liss is Jewish and often writes about the unique struggles of Jewish identity in his historical fiction. In this novel he writes from the lens of how Jews have often been perceived by others with great prejudice, which sadly remains relevant today. After his late father's death, Thomas Thresher has largely feigned interest in his work and finds himself being pressured into a marital arrangement by his brother that will be profitable for their family business; that is until he finds a ledger documenting certain debts the bank has acquired that don't appear to be particularly fruitful financial pursuits--so why then do they exist? Determined to learn more, Thomas finds himself knee-deep in a mystery of debtors, their worlds and their widows; and the question of what, if anything, these transactions may have to do with "the Peculiarities"--the whispered about abnormal occurrences of late...biological metamorphoses and mythical creatures that everyone and no one is discussing. These oddities lend a very intriguing and mysterious backdrop to the novel--especially since Thomas himself is occasionally sprouting leaves. As insufferable as Thomas was at the start, he goes through a wonderful character arc in a fully fleshed (or furred!) out world of well-developed characters in the heart of a surreal version of 19th century London. Liss is as ever a master storyteller, weaving mystery, magic, mythology and secret societies together in this engrossing and surprising (a big reveal I did not expect!) read. Publication Date: September 7th, 2021 TW: Sexual Assault, Anti-semitism Thank you to NetGalley & Tantor Audio for the advanced copy of the audiobook in exchange for an unbiased review. #ThePeculiarities #NetGalley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Tican

    My second book read from this author and this one I thoroughly enjoyed... it was more Fun than the Twelfth Enchantment. This a more Graphic and more Literal interpretation of the worldwide changes that came fast and strong at the heels of the storm first kicked~off by the Industrial Revolution decades before the turn of the 19th century and gained momentum at the beginning of the 2oth. The Peculiarities* were the stark manifestations of the aforementioned changes in the author's concept of an al My second book read from this author and this one I thoroughly enjoyed... it was more Fun than the Twelfth Enchantment. This a more Graphic and more Literal interpretation of the worldwide changes that came fast and strong at the heels of the storm first kicked~off by the Industrial Revolution decades before the turn of the 19th century and gained momentum at the beginning of the 2oth. The Peculiarities* were the stark manifestations of the aforementioned changes in the author's concept of an alternate realm in a specific slice of time between centuries. 1899 London. Amid the shadow of darkness caused by the unusual London fog, though a low cloud that moved and blanketed the city it also had the ability to topple small things down from their places and sometimes exhibited malevolent tendencies and attacked people plus it could be cut into pieces like solid matter. Most alarming than the malicious mischief caused by the fog was the appearance of half~humans... half~animals or half~plants humans referred to as the Peculiars of which Thomas Thresher scion of a banking family was one... he was slowly sprouting leaves from his skin... he was later on showed how he would eventually look like in two~years time ~ a tree. A tree who could travel via astral projection to other worlds. It was in search of a Cure that Thomas would be forced to look into the possibility of Magic... only when he began to see patterns and algorithms in written symbols did he finally understand that Magic and Mathematics were not that different given that he had already seen and experienced magic in his mathematical calculations and equations. There were major conflicts here like the unfathomable reason why Thomas was ordered by his much older brother and employer to marry Esther and the reason why Threshers Bank was not collecting various small debts on loans given to practitioners of Magic... strange banking practice, that. This had all the vital ingredients of a well~rounded Adventure... with moments of humour... romance... friendship and family.. magic... blood and conflict... secrets and mysteries... etc. *it started with reports of women giving birth to rabbits but since such a phenomenon was mostly confined to the lower classes and to the poorer sections of the city, these and other weird physical manifestations were dismissed by the ruling class and Parliament.

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