Book Review | The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix


Title: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Author: Garth Nix

Publisher: Gollancz

Release Date: 24th September 2020

Source: NetGalley 

Buy: Amazon UK
A girl's quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of fantasy, Garth Nix.

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn't get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan's search for her father begins with her mother's possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan's. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

I’ve pondered a couple of days before writing down my thoughts on this one.  Imagine Ben Aarononvitch’s Rivers of London mashed up with some Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde and you might get a hint of what The Left-Handed Booksellers of London has in store for you.

The year is 1983, 18 year old Susan Arkshaw has never known her father, leaving her slightly eccentric mother in the country she moves to London hoping to hunt him down.  She starts with Frank Thringley, a man who has been a constant in her life, a man she has never met except through yearly presents but her plans to question him are thwarted when he turns to dust in front of her.

From this point onwards Susan’s life changes drastically, the cause of Frank’s demise was a pin prick handed to him by the stupendously attractive and slightly androgynous Merlin St Jacques, he is a book seller and a left-handed one at that.  His job is to sell books and fight the things us non-book sellers cant see.  Susan takes this unusual news well and is taken under his wing.  He takes her to one of his families many bookshops where he meets Merlin’s sister Vivien who is a right-handed book seller, this means she gets the brains not the brawn and through a series of strange events they realise that something or someone is out to get Susan and it is related to her search for her father.

This book is great fun with magic, mirth and some gore thrown in for good measure, the St Jacques siblings and Susan make a great team as they deal with all manner of fantasy creatures trying to kill Susan.  Susan is not a helpless female, you’ll be happy to hear, despite her young age she deals with the constant information overload from the book sellers quite stoically.

I don’t know if this is a stand alone book or if it’s going to be a series, I’m hoping the latter as the alternate 80’s setting that Nix has created is definitely worth exploring further.

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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8 comments

  1. This sounds so original and different. I like it!

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  2. At the bookstore where I used to work, I worked with a woman who read everything Garth Nix wrote. She loved his books. I have yet to read him but this one sounds great.

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    1. This was my first Nix, It certainly made me want to try another!

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  3. This sounds like one most fantasy readers would enjoy.

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  4. This definitely sounds interesting! The synopsis reminds me a bit of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman and The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. But neither of those was really funny. You've caught my interest with this one. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I have never read the Invisible Library but I loved the Rook, I see they have made a tv show of it.

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