The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Review by Matthew Cushing

Garth Nix explores Earth in a slightly-alternate 1983 London for his latest fantasy The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. The story follows Susan, a young woman looking for her father–a man she has never met. With only a few memories from her mother and a list of possible surnames, Susan finds a mobster who might have some information, but when she arrives to talk to him, he has just been killed by the stylish and handsome Merlin.

Merlin is a left-handed bookseller (the fighting kind) who, along with right-handed booksellers (the intellectual kind), belongs to an extended family of magical beings who study ancient texts and wield artifacts to police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the Modern World. With overtones of The Librarian or Warehouse-13, Nix has overlaid a realm of fantasy and magic with the veneer of 1983 London–and some spots between the two are a little weak, allowing magical baddies to pass between.

Merlin is on his own quest to find which magical villain killed his mother and soon discovers that his search largely overlaps with Susan’s. Together, they retrace old police investigations, discover shoddy work, and uncover new leads that take them over to the Old World. With exciting action, colorful characters, and shots of humor, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is a fast and entertaining read.

Nix has also released a sequel, The Sinister Booksellers of Bath, which again teams Merlin with Susan when they discover a sorcerous map which leads them back into the magical Old World.

Garth Nix is a master of fantasy, having written sixteen books, half of them taking place in his fantastic Old Kingdom–a place on the other side of a great magical wall where charter magic governs how things work and not all creatures remain dead. His original trilogy of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen follow the exploits of the Abhorsen, a necromancer who uses a bandolier of bells to travel into the nine layers of death and control the spirits who live there or escape to the land of the living. It is one of my favorite fantasy stories.

Both his Booksellers series and Old Kingdom series are highly recommended.

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