Lena’s long-vanished father is responsible for her elongated fingers and overlarge feet and not much else in her life. So when her 18th birthday brings a message from him, she feels compelled to travel from the City to the wildness of Scree – hiding place of goblins, flying people, and outlaws – to find him and discover what Peculiar blood might flow in her veins.
As the steam train chugs north, Lena keeps to herself, longtoed boots hidden by her traveling skirt, gray gloves covering her long, long fingers. One young man doesn’t take her hints, insisting on talking about their destination, a coastal town near Scree where he’s taken a position as librarian to a scientist, and about his fiancée and his family’s expectations.
During dinner, the train suddenly halts as masked men rescue a prisoner and rob the passengers! Thankfully, Lena had pinned her father’s envelope inside her bodice, but now has little money to finance her planned expedition into Scree. And the sheriff investigating the train heist has been chasing after her father for years…
Luckily, Jimson’s eccentric employer decides that Lena should also help catalog his unusual collection, giving her time to save up money to venture into Scree. A steam-powered typewriter, doors with intricate opening mechanisms, books with gem-encrusted covers – the library is a treasure of wonders and even a few answers for Lena’s questions about the Peculiars and Scree.
But she sees a strange winged figure on the roof at night, finds drawings of hands like her own in Mr. Beasley’s medical case sketchbook, and is getting more attention from Sheriff Saltre than she wants. If Lena doesn’t go into Scree quite soon, she’ll be trapped by winter weather and her growing affection for Jimson.
Alarmed by the sheriff’s investigations, Mr. Beasley and Jimson prepare for household members to escape Zephyr House. Can the flying machine get everyone out in time? Have they hidden the inventor’s secrets and experiments regarding the Peculiars well enough? Will Lena get to Scree and find her father after all these years?
Set in an alternative steampunk United States of late 1800s, those called The Peculiars face extreme prejudice and lifelong slavery in Scree’s mines, as Lena and compatriots from Zephyr House are about to discover first-hand.
Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA – blogging about young adult books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com