I am going to be honest here. The reason I picked up Gary Nix’s The Left-Handed Booksellers of London was simply because of the enticing title. With the word “bookseller” in it, I felt some sort of weird, automatic draw to read about those in the bookselling business. Of course, I hoped it would be fantastical and mysterious.
Turns out, it was very fantastical and mysterious. It’s set in London in 1983, where not everything is as it seems. There is the Old World and the New World, the former wrought with magic and monsters and the latter the mundane (though somewhat altered) world we know. 18-year-old art student Susan Arkshaw doesn’t know about anything out of the norm– that is, until she started searching for the mysteriously absent father she never knew.
Going off of scattered clues from her mother, Susan departs on what ends up being a relatively short adventure. After following her first clue for only a couple of days, she has a frightening run-in with the Old World and a bookseller, one of the many people trained to police the magic and keep it away from society– all while running a few bookstores on the side to fund their operations. Thankfully, she gets to live another day, but little does she know that her life will never be the same.
With her new friend Merlin the bookseller (yes, like the wizard!), Susan discovers myths that are all too real while trying her best to survive a clash between the two worlds. Can she survive it? Will she discover more about Merlin than she anticipated? And who really is her father?
I found this book clever and very unexpected. When I was originally enticed by the title, I couldn’t have anticipated the story I found inside and don’t think I have read anything else quite like it before. I don’t know much about London in the ’80s, but I love how the author played around with reality and tweaked a few things to make even the New World seem changed. If you are a YA fan looking for a good read, unique story, colorful characters, and a fun escape, then I recommend this book to you. I’d tell you what the title ended up meaning, but I’ll let the book work its magic and pull you in itself!