Prologue Feathers fell from the sky. Like black snow, they drifted onto an old city called Bath. They whirled down the roofs, gathered in the corners of the alleys, and turned everything dark and silent, like a winters day. The townsfolk thought it odd. Some locked themselves in their cellars.
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Prologue Feathers fell from the sky. Like black snow, they drifted onto an old city called Bath. They whirled down the roofs, gathered in the corners of the alleys, and turned everything dark and silent, like a winters day.
The townsfolk thought it odd. Some locked themselves in their cellars. Some hurried to church. Most opened umbrellas and went about their business. At four o clock in the afternoon, a group of bird catchers set o on the road to Kentish Town, pulling their cages in a cart behind them.
They were the last to see Bath as it had been, the last to leave it. Sometime in 1 THE PECULI A R the night of the twenty-third of September, there was a tremendous noise like wings and voices, creaking branches and howling winds, and then, in the blink of an eye, Bath was gone, and all that remained were ruins, quiet and desolate under the stars. There were no ames. No screams. Everyone within ve leagues disappeared, so there was no one left to speak to the baili when he came riding up the next morning on his knock-kneed horse.
No one human. A farmer found him hours later, standing in a trampled eld. The bailis horse was gone and his boots were worn to nothing, as if he had been walking many days. Cold, he said, with a faraway look. Cold lips and cold hands and so peculiar. That was when the rumors started.
Monsters were crawling from the ruins of Bath, the whispers said, bone-thin ends and giants as tall as the hills. On the nearby farms, people nailed garlic to their doorposts and tied their shutters closed with red ribbons.
After that, people locked their doors. Weeks passed, and the rumors turned to worse things. Children disappeared from their beds. Dogs and sheep went suddenly lame. In Wales, folk went into the woods and never came out. In Swainswick, a ddle was heard playing in the night, and all the women of the town went out in their bed-gowns and followed it. No one ever saw them again. Thinking this might be the work of one of Englands enemies, Parliament ordered a brigade of troops to Bath at once.
The troops arrived, and though they found no rebels or Frenchmen among the tumbled stones, they did nd a little battered notebook belonging to one of the scientists who had met his death in the oak. There were only a few pages of writing in it, badly splotched and very hurried, but it caused a sensation all over the country. It was published in pamphlets and newspapers, and limed up onto walls. The rst part was all charts and formulas, interspersed with sentimental scribblings about someone named Lizzy.
But as the writing proceeded, the scientists observations became more interesting. He wrote of the feathers that had fallen on Bath, how they were not the feathers of any bird. He wrote of mysterious footprints, strange scars in the earth. Finally he wrote of a long shadowy highway dissolving in a wisp of brimstone, and of creatures known only in tales. It was then that everyone knew for certain what they had been dreading all along: the Small Folk, the Hidden People, the Sidhe had passed from their place into ours.
The faeries had come to England. They came upon the troops in the nightgoblins and satyrs, gnomes, sprytes, and the elegant, spindly white beings with their black, black eyes. The faeries had no intention of listening to these clumsy, red-clad men.
They ran circles around them, hissing and teasing. A pale hand reached out to pluck at a red sleeve. A gun red in the darkness.
That was when the war started. It was called the Smiling War because it left so many skulls, white and grinning, in the elds. There were few real battles. No great marches or blazing charges to write poems about later. Because the fay were not like men. They did not follow rules, or line up like tin soldiers. The faeries called the birds out of the sky to peck out the soldiers eyes. They called the rain to wet their gunpowder, and asked the forests to pull up their roots and wander across the countryside to confuse English maps.
On a low rise called Tar Hill, the British army converged on the fay and scattered them. Those that ed were shot down as they ran. The rest and there were very many were rounded up, counted, christened, and dragged away to the factories. Bath became their home in this new country. It grew back a dark place, pressing up out of the rubble. The place where the highway had appeared, where everything had been utterly destroyed, became New Bath, a knot of houses and streets more than ve hundred feet high, all blackened chimneys and spidery bridges wound into a ball of stinking, smoking dross.
As for the magic the faeries had brought with them, Parliament decided it was something of an aiction that must be hidden under bandages and ointments. Iron had long been known as a sure protection against spells, and now little bits of it were put into everything from buttons to breadcrumbs.
In the larger cities, elds were plowed up and trees chopped down because it was supposed that faeries could gather magic from the leaves and the dewdrops. Abraham Darby famously hypothesized in his dissertation The Properties of Air that clockwork acted as a sort of antidote to the unruly nature of the fay, and so professors and physicians and all the great minds turned their powers toward mechanics and industry.
The Age of Smoke had begun. And after a time the faeries were simply a part of England, an inseparable part, like the heather on the bleak gray moors, like the gallows on the hilltops.
The goblins and gnomes and wilder faeries were quick to pick up English ways. They lived in English cities, coughed English smoke, and were soon no worse o than the thousands of human poor that toiled at their side. They could not forget that they had once been lords and ladies in great halls of their own.
They could not forgive. The English might have won the Smiling War, but there were other ways to ght. A word could cause a riot, ink could spell a mans death, and the Sidhe knew those weapons like the backs of their hands.
Oh yes, they knew. He wondered if she would ever leave again. In the corpse mans barrow perhaps, or in a sack, but probably not on her own two feet. The faery slums of Bath were not kind to strangers. One moment you could be on a bustling thoroughfare, dodging tram wheels and dung piles, and trying not to be devoured by the wolves that pulled the carriages, and the next you could 9 THE PECULI A R be hopelessly lost in a maze of narrow streets with nothing but gaunt old houses stooping overhead, blocking out the sky.
If you had the ill luck to meet anyone, chances were it would be a thief. And not the dainty sort, like the thin-ngered chimney sprytes of London. Rather the sort with dirt under their nails and leaves in their hair, who, if they thought it worthwhile, would not hesitate to slit your throat. This lady looked very worthwhile. Bartholomew closed the book he had been reading and pressed his nose against the grimy window, watching her progress down the alley.
Folks killed for less, he knew. If the half-starved corpses he had seen dragged from the gutter were anything to go by, folks killed for much less. She was so tall, so strange and foreign in her nery; she seemed to ll every nook of the murky passage.
Long gloves the color of midnight covered her hands. Jewels glimmered at her throat. A little top hat with an enormous purple ower in it sat on her head. It was perched at an angle so that it cast a shadow over her eyes.
Hettie, come look. Feet pattered in the depths of the room. A little girl appeared next to him. She was too thin, her face all sharp bones and pale skin, tinged blue from lack of sunlight. Ugly, like him. Her eyes were huge and round, black puddles collecting in the hollows of her skull.
The tips of her ears were pointed. In a pinch Bartholomew might still pass as a human child, but not Hettie. There was no mistaking the faery blood in her veins. For where Bartholomew had a mess of chestnut hair growing out of his scalp, Hettie had the smooth, bare branches of a young tree. She pushed a wayward twig out of her eyes and let out a little gasp. Oh, Barthy, she breathed, clutching at his hand.
Shelves: series-books , ya , reviewed , first-reads , twenty-twelve To begin with this novel was well-written but not very engaging. There is a lot of ambitious world building but at times it feels cobbled together. The language while very descriptive failed to create much of an atmosphere. A lot of time is spent describing things instead of letting the reader use their imagination. The world is described very thoroughly while the characters are left with few personality traits and no features.
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
He was born in Colorado and now lives with his family in Zurich, Switzerland, where he attends the Zurich Conservatory. He began writing his acclaimed novel The Peculiar in , when he was sixteen years old. Here Bachmann shares some ideas for adapting The Peculiar for the big screen: I remember the very first time I spoke to my editor on the phone, before The Peculiar had even sold, and she and my agent were like, "Now, Johnny Depp will play Mr. Jelliby, and Tim Burton will direct, and Danny Elfman will write the music, and Michael Bay will produce, and it will be great. If they were to make the movie, I would be happy. I like basically all of his movies.