Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Peculiar Audio

The Peculiar Audio

Stefan Bachman
Fiction
For ages 10 and up
Unabridged audiobook (Digital)
Performed/read by: Peter Altschuler
Harper Audio, 2012 

Some years ago, on a perfectly ordinary September day, black feathers began to drift down on the city of Bath. The people had no idea what was going on, and then on the twenty-third of that month Bath disappeared. All that was left of the famous city “were ruins, quiet and desolate under the stars.” It was not long before the people of England realized what had happened. A great door had opened up between our world and the world of the Sidhe, the faeries. Many of the faeries and their kin had entered our world and then the door had closed, trapping them in a place where they were not wanted. There was a war between the humans and the Sidhe, and the faeries, goblins, giants, trolls and other creatures lost the conflict. Now most of them have been absorbed into English life. Except for the High faeries, who have comfortable lives, most of the faeries are poor and live in miserable slums.

   Bartholomew and his sister Hettie live in one of these slums, in New Bath. They are changelings, half human and half faery, and are therefore hated by both humans and the faeries. Often changelings are killed and so Bartholomew’s mother is careful to keep her children hidden. As she says, “Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.”

   One day Batholomew is looking out of the window of his house into the street when he sees a very beautifully dressed lady walking down the street. Such wealthy looking people rarely enter the faery district and Bartholomew watches what she does with keen interest. He sees the lady talk to someone in the house across the street, and then he sees his friend, who is another changeling, come out of the house. The lady, who has her back to Bartholomew, talks to the child. Then, without warning, she somehow becomes aware of his presence. She parts the hair at the back of her head and a nasty little face looks out directly at Bartholomew. He immediately hides and tells himself that the lady could not have seen him, and if she did she would surely think he was nothing more than an ordinary boy. Then, when he peers out of the window again, he sees the lady hold the boy close and then the lady and the changeling vanish.

   Meanwhile, in London, Arthur Jelliby, who is a member of parliament, is attending a meeting of the Privy Council. The Speaker of the Council tells the council members that someone has been killing changeling children. Nine little bodies, all of which were quite hollow, have been found floating in the Thames. No one has claimed the children and no one seems to know what happened to them.

   Arthur Jelliby does not like thinking about murders or other nasty things. He likes a quiet life and has no interest in getting involved in mysteries of any kind, and yet this is just what happens. By accident he overhears Mr. Lickerish, a very high ranking faery who is the Lord Chancellor to the Queen, talking to someone. It becomes clear that he is somehow connected to the deaths of the changelings. My Jelliby sees a lovely women talking to the faery and she begs Mr. Jelliby to help her.

   Being a good man, Mr. Jelliby sets about trying to find out who the woman is and what Mr. Lickerish is up to. Unfortunately, the powerful faery soon figures out that Mr. Jelliby is spying on him and Mr. Lickerish sets about doing everything he can to stop Mr. Jelliby. Permanently.  Against his will, Mr. Jelliby finds himself racing across England looking for information and then, by sheer chance, he encounters a little changeling boy, Bartholomew, whose little sister has been kidnapped. It would seem that she is the tenth changeling to be taken, and if they don’t find her in time she will also be the tenth changeling to die.

   In this extraordinary story listeners will enter a world where humans and faeries live unhappily shoulder to shoulder. Though the war between their kinds is long in the past, they do not trust or like one another, and the some of the Sidh are eager to have their revenge on the humans who have persecuted them.

   With great skill the author keeps his two main characters apart until their worlds collide and they find themselves working together , seeking answers, and doing what they can to battle against a terrible common enemy.

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