The Peculiar

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Peculiar Book Poster Image
Half-faery boy fights to save his sister in magical fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Since the story takes place in an alternative version of England, some kids may enjoy finding the places on maps of the real world, and looking at pictures of the area as it currently exists. Uneasy dealings between two different types of beings comes up in real life as well as fiction; kids can look for parallels in other stories and in the world we know.

Positive Messages

Take care of your family members. Never give up, even when you're afraid. And you may find the people you belong with in the unlikeliest places.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bartholomew loves his family, is determined to save his sister, and is brave and resourceful in the face of life-threatening challenges -- even when he's terrified. He doesn't always make the right decisions, even when doing his best, but he recovers from his mistakes and never gives up. He and Hettie are very devoted to each other, and their bond endures through many perils. Mr. Jelliby, an amiable young human politician in search of peace and quiet, rises to the occasion nicely when circumstances require much more of him.


Violence is a constant presence from the start: a cosmic, bloody battle between humans and faeries, which provides the background to the current reality, in which both faeries and humans kill changeling children regularly. Recent victims are found with their entrails mysteriously missing. Many characters have powerful forces seeking to kill them, and some die; there's much sinister machinery and dark atmosphere adding to the creepiness.



A naive young girl runs away with a dashing young man who turns out to be a monster in disguise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink and smoke in the manner of Victorians, but most of the drinking and drugs here are magical in nature -- brews, potions, and spells with life-changing or life-threatening powers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Peculiar, by first-time author Stefan Bachmann -- a teen -- conjures up a scary, compelling alternate world in which kids with the wrong genes (known as changelings) are frequently murdered, and adults use magic, treachery, and physical violence to get their way. The weird imagery and violence may be too intense for some young readers: There's a bloody battle between humans and faeries (folkloric beings sometimes spelled "fairies"); faeries and humans regularly kill changeling children, some who are found with their entrails mysteriously missing; and some other people die. But the characters are memorable, the vision is imaginative, and there are strong messages of friendship, family, loyalty, and protecting your loved ones even when it means risking your life.  

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What's the story?

In a vaguely Victorian/steampunk alternate world where the Industrial Revolution is infused with magic and science fiction, the faeries (trapped in the human world by a cosmic mishap) and humans coexist with great suspicion, and the children of human-faery unions, called changelings or THE PECULIAR, get the worst of it. Changeling Bartholomew Kettle spends most of his time keeping himself and his sister Hettie (who has tree branches for hair) out of sight, but when he looks from his attic room to see a mysterious lady talking to the Peculiar boy across the street and spiriting him away in a puff of feathers, he has a bad feeling and suspects he or Hettie might be next. Magical powers, strange machinery, and universe-altering plots come into play in the adventures that follow, along with unlikely friendships and insights into those who aren't what they seem.

Is it any good?

Still in his teens as The Peculiar hits shelves, author Bachmann creates a compelling world, appealing characters, lurking humor, and a convoluted plot with a steady stream of revelations. Some readers may bog down in the descriptions and world-building, while others will revel in the detail. The book closes with a dramatic cliffhanger, but there's a sequel in the works.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like to live your daily life with people of a different species. Could it turn out better than this, or worse? How?

  • Why do you think fantasy stories about faeries are so popular?

  • Why are some characters better at seeing through deceptive magic than others? Can you think of a situation in real life where someone was able to deceive some people but not everybody?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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