The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London Book Poster Image
Action-packed magical fantasy also has charm and wit.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain. Readers will learn a little about some ancient myths and folklore of the United Kingdom.

Positive Messages

Overall messages are positive and show the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and having a large network of friends and family for support and guidance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Susan is a strong role model for perseverance, communication, and courage. She's quick thinking, willing to sacrifice herself to save others, and bravely faces unknown dangers. Merlin's also a positive role model for the same traits. He's also very loyal and somewhat gender fluid. He identifies as male and uses male pronouns, but he dresses and presents himself as a woman as often as a man and is thinking about using his magical abilities to change gender. Merlin's extended family come from all over the world and have a diverse range of skin colors and accents. There are authoritative and powerful female characters, and in this alternative United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher is its second female prime minister.


Almost all violence is in the fantasy realms and involves fighting or outsmarting nightmarish creatures like goblins, undead people and animals, giant wolves, and ancient mythical beings. Weapons include guns, knives, swords, clubs, and arrows. Blood, flesh, and bones from injuries are mentioned and described briefly. Lots of intense action from characters in physical danger and in scary, mysterious, supernatural locations. A drunk man lurches close for a kiss and gets knocked down by a hard blow behind the knees. A helicopter crashes when it's attacked by large magical birds; lots of bird blood and feathers are mentioned. A character is bound, gagged, and carried away. A few minor characters die.


A couple of kisses, romantic dynamics, and mention that two characters will be sleeping in the same bed.


"F--k," "s--t," and "arsehole."


Various publishers mentioned, and Penguin is mentioned prominently several times. High-end clothier Turnbull and Asser, and Theakston's Old Peculier ale.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult teens of legal age in the UK drink wine and beer with meals two or three times. A minor character is described smoking a couple of times. Speculation about a parent's past LSD use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is a magical fantasy by popular author Garth Nix. There's lots of fantasy violence, scary creatures like goblins; undead people and animals; and ancient mythical beings and creatures. Weapons include guns, knives, swords, arrows, and clubs. Blood, flesh, and bones from injuries are described briefly. Strong language is rare but includes "s--t" and "f--k." There are a couple of kisses and mention that a couple will be sleeping in the same bed. Adult teens of legal age drink wine and beer with meals a few times. A minor character smokes. Parental loss is a strong theme. Susan doesn't know who her father is and is looking for him. Merlin's mother was killed by gunshot several years ago and Merlin is investigating the incident because he doesn't believe the official report. Merlin's extended family have a wide range of skin colors, accents, and ages. Merlin is gender fluid but most often identifies as male and always uses male pronouns. Overall messages are positive about teamwork, loyalty, bravery, and perseverance. There are several women in positions of authority.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Kid, 11 years old March 13, 2021

Fine for 12+ just a bit of language!

I loved this book so much. It’s got a couple of swear words but other than that I adored It!

What's the story?

THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON are an extended clan who still possess magical abilities and are tasked with intervening when mythical people and beings from ancient times break through into the modern world. Oh, and they also run a couple of bookshops in London. Merlin and his twin sister Vivien are young newcomers, just out of magical training school and starting to get their feet wet when it comes to fending off the ancients. Susan is a young woman who decides to spend the summer before she starts art college trying to find her father. It's going to be tough, though, since she doesn't even know his name. The only clue she has leads to an old friend of her mother's, who happens to have just been disintegrated by Merlin. Forced to flee together, Merlin and Susan will have to overcome powerful creatures and beings in order to finally learn the truth.

Is it any good?

Veteran author Garth Nix has added another winner to his impressive body of work with this fast-paced, inventive magical fantasy that also has lots humor and charm. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London nicely balances characters and plot elements steeped in ancient lore with quirky, refreshing characters in an interesting, alternative version of London in 1983. The story is well structured and keeps the pages turning for the most part, although it does slow down a bit in a couple of places. Teens will enjoy rooting for Merlin and Susan as they seek the truth. Lots of fantasy violence with some mildly gory descriptions make it best for high-schoolers and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. How much is too much? Do you react differently when you read it than when you see it in movies, videos, games, or other media? Why?

  • Why is it important to represent different kinds of people in books and other media? How do you feel when there's a character you can identify with? What can you learn about people who are different from you?

  • Have you read any other books by Garth Nix? If you have, which ones are your favorites? If you haven't, would you like to now?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and magic

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