The Left-Handed Booksellers Book Review – Spoiler Free
Your Next Fantasy Beach Read?
Garth Nix‘s Left-Handed Booksellers of London is a fantasy standalone full of charm and wonder that is a great holiday read. It’s not a particularly gruelling or bleak read, and its ideas aren’t complex or profound: it’s simply an enjoyable read.
It’s a perfect ‘beach read‘: the kind of book you read between series or doorstoppers to refresh your mind, a kind of palate cleanser that’s easy and fun and light.
But you’re probably wondering, what’s so special about this book? Why choose this one out of the plethora of others out there?
The main characters are definitely the kind of people you want to be friends with. The protagonist is an 18-year-old woman with a buzz-cut à la Sinéad O’Connor, and her companion (one of the eponymous left-handed booksellers) is a 19-year-old man who changes clothes as often as he pleases, wearing jeans one minute and a dress the next.
The camaraderie between the two is fun to watch, and they make you feel a part of the action. Both are genuinely kind people, and their openness and acceptance of each other is heartwarming amongst all the action and intrigue that takes place.
Set in a slightly alternate London in 1983, the world is already partially created. It’s what Nix does with the fantasy elements that he layers in that really make this a wonderful world to visit. It’s full of powerful entities, mythical creatures, magical charms and the booksellers of London who are trying to keep the unaware mortals safe.
This is a world that is at once dangerous and captivating. Many places are well known or easy to research online, but they are slightly unfamiliar and changed in the novel, so there’s an element of mystery and uncertainty that make it exciting to travel through.
After a short prologue, you’re hurled into the action, running to keep up with Susan and Merlin as strange things are happening. You’re never confused on the ‘what’, but sometimes the ‘why’ of events is withheld, and you just have to trust that things will eventually be explained to you (and they are).
The events that befall Susan at first make it feel like she has no agency in the story, and that she is simply being pulled along for the ride. And for a while, this is exactly what’s happening. The good thing is that you’re along for the ride too.
But, when Susan (and you) begin to get your bearings, she does make decisions that effect the plot and that’s where I felt the action really ramped up. I love it when character and plot influence each other like that.
Most importantly for a beach read, fantasy or otherwise, the novel is contained. Sometimes beach reads are a part of a series, but they feel more like an episode with a definite beginning, middle and end, than as part of an overarching series plot. At any rate, in this case Left-Handed Booksellers is a standalone, so you can rest assured that once you’ve finished the book, you won’t have any threads left dangling over you.