The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
Garth Nix
Published date

“The Left-Handed Booksellers of London” by Garth Nix is a surprising adventure in a slightly alternative London in 1983. The Protagonist, Susan Arkshaw, is searching for her father, and following the small trail leading to one of London’s crime lords. Unfortunately, before she manages to ask him any question, he is turned to a pile of dust by a handsome young man named Merlin. From that moment, Susan discovers a whole new world that has always existed just under the nose of regular people.

From the very first chapters, the weird things keep popping up at you. I love how original and fresh it all felt. The idea itself is nothing new – the mystical world intertwining with the real one, mythological creatures and immortal, ancient beings. But the author pulls out all those tropes and serves them in a completely different form. As you can see from the title, the essential group in the book are Booksellers. They are the descendants of powerful beings who always stood between the real and mystical world. Oh, and they have magical glowing hands. Sounds a bit crazy, right? The idea seems ridiculous at first, but the author goes with it and it suddenly makes so much sense!

So, the Booksellers are divided into left and right-handed. The first ones are field agents, skilled in all fighting skills and weapons, while the right-handed are more scholarly types proficient in gathering information and knowledge management. Oh, and in the meantime, they sell books. They must do something in their spare time, don’t they?

Susan discovers the quest for finding her father is more complicated than she expected when she suddenly becomes a person of interest for various mystical beings and regular real-world brutes. She agrees to accept Merlin’s help, and they embark on a mad journey to discover the truth. There is no time for boredom here, as the action is speeding forward like crazy, and more and more weird encounters awaits the protagonists on every corner. There is also a matter of very suspicious signs, indicating that someone form the good guys may be playing for the evil team.

The book has a lot of humour in it. Merlin is a particularly interesting character. Very handsome and alluring, quick with the guns, but also with the weirdest sense of fashion and hoarding tendencies. He is a good match for Susan, who is a no-nonsense person who would not let anyone get on her case and can keep her calm in the weirdest situations.

This is the second book from Garth Nix I read so far, and it only confirmed my previous impression, that he is an amazingly creative writer. The way he creates his worlds is so imaginative and yet convincing that the reader accepts even the most bizarre ideas at face value. Through this book, you can also feel the author’s love for England and London. He wrote in his notes at the end of the book that he always enjoyed his visits there, and it shows in his novel. The way the characters speak with different accents, descriptions of London’s traffic and then the rural country landscapes – all of it makes you feel as if you were visiting England yourself.

If you like creative fantasy stories, full of humour and unexpected encounters I’m sure you will love this book. It’s almost a shame this is a standalone book. The Booksellers have so much potential; I would gladly read more about their adventures in the future!