Oddity – Eli Brown

Standard

Walker Books

May 2021

ISBN: 9781406389272
Imprint: Walker
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS

Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $21.99

I read this well over a month ago and have been talking it up big time to my readers, especially my ChocLit group but hadn’t yet written the review. Not because I didn’t absolutely love it but because, really, it is so completely unique in my experience that I have struggled to know exactly how to describe it.

It is a thrilling mixture of gothic fantasy, adventure, thriller, and supernatural (so try putting it into a ‘genre’ – arggghhh!) with characters the like of which you have never yet encountered and a plot that is utterly original, quirky and gripping.

Clover Elkin has been raised by her father, a gentle physician originally from Prague, following the loss of her mother in a freak accident when Clover was just a baby. When her beloved father is murdered by ruthless and cruel bandits, he charges Clover with the protection of the most magical Oddity of all. Clover knows a little about Oddities. She knows her mother studied these strange objects and has read some of the few journals about them that she has come across. Oddities are seemingly everyday objects but have mysterious powers of their own, almost impossible to control or direct: an ice hook that when thrown into a lake has kept that body of water frozen for decades, a teapot that, when tipped, keeps pouring endlessly, a rag doll that is animated when roused and has the strength and fury of a titan. All of these are objects which have been highly sought after by collectors and their powers used or abused over eons.

In this alternate 19th century history the Unified States still suffers from the horror of the Louisiana Wars and Napoleon’s enchanted army, and, in many ways, is as lawless as any old West frontier town of long-ago matinee movies. Clover must make her own way to find the answers she needs about her parents, her own history but also this one special Oddity in particular. Along the way she encounters some of the strangest (and frankly, at times, creepiest) characters some of whom prove to be allies and others unscrupulous enemies including a young girl who travels with a deadly snake and her medicine show, a talking rooster who is a decorated army general, a sinister man with a hat that collects secrets, and the nightmarish ‘Seamstress’.

This is dark and scary but at times also funny and warm. I read it eagerly, eating up every word, adventure and character in what is one of my best reads so far this year. I feel I cannot do it justice by merely writing this small account so I urge you most strongly to pick it up and read it. You will not be disappointed I promise.

I am giving it my highest recommendation for discerning readers from around 12 years upwards. I have readers of my own lining up to read it and predict it will be in high demand in our library.

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