THREE WORDS: Enchanting & Whimsically DarkI've been looking forward to reading Stefan Bachmann's The Peculiar for awhile now, drawn to the intriguing steampunk and fantasy midde-grade premise, and I'm happy to report that it not only lived up to my expectations, but I really loved it as well!Bartholomew Kettle and his little sister are changelings, half human and half fae children, and are knows as Peculiars. The siblings live with their mother in the faery slums of Bath and do everything they can to NOT be noticed. But when a mysterious lady in plum shows up on their street and takes the changeling boy across the street, Bartholomew gets noticed, and worse, he gets marked. When the lady in plum and a Raggedy Man take Bartholomew's sister he must risk everything to save her. With the help of a Arthur Jelliby, Bartholomew goes up against the lady in plum and a sinister faery to save his sister and maybe the whole world.Stefan Bachmann has crafted a fantastically enchanting, deliciously and whimsically dark, and impressive debut. The Peculiar offers readers a spellbindingly original story with a thrilling mix of steampunk, mystery and gothic fantasy elements, and two endearing heroes.The story is fast and excitedly paced and will easily hold the attention of even young readers. Bachmann is a superb writer and storyteller, with a refreshing, smart and witty voice, and he weaves a lyrical and magical tale. The world-building is stellar with a grand and vivid Victorian steampunk setting. The world Bachmann has laid out is richly layered and stunning. Even the dirty, stark faery slums hold a certain enchanting quality.What drew me to this book initially was the fact that it was touted has a middle-grade steampunk, which I've never read before. And the steampunk elements are fantastic (and actually steampunk!) and incredibly innovative and imaginative, without being over the top. The clockwork gadgets and gizmos are pretty awesome! But it's not just a steampunk, it's a fun murder mystery and grand fantasy adventure too! There are plenty of thrilling twists and Bartholomew's adventures take him to some wildly unexpected and fascinating places. The fae elements are really fresh and unique. I love that the faeries aren't your cutesie Tinkerbells, but a myriad of sizes, colors, species and temperaments. There's an enthralling and eerie edge to these powerful and sometimes dangerous beings that make them an irresistible mix of captivating and chilling.Bartholomew and Arthur Jelliby are really endearing and likable characters and they make a quirky pair. I really like the unexpected friendship that blossoms between young Bartholomew and the older Jelliby. I love a great villain and Bachmann has magicked up a wonderfully wicked villain with his character Mr. Lickerish. He's crafty, clever and scary in all the right ways.Bartholomew and Arthur's journey and all of Mr. Lickerish's dastardly deeds all lead up to a shocking and climatic revelation and ending. The story begins with a boom that pulled me right in and ends with a cliffhangery bang that left me desperate for more.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: I love this MG book that kept me entertained and engrossed from beginning to end, and I'm so excited for the sequel. The Peculiar dazzles and sparkles with originality, fantastic writing and a story that will enchant readers of all ages!