The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: August 14, 2012
Reviewed by: Lili
In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.
Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.
As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.
Imagine living in a world unlike any other. In this world, magic and those who know how to wield it are automatically evil and knowledge of science is essential to living. In New London, science is everything.
THE UNNATURALISTS is a truly refreshing read. Full of steampunk elements, this fantasy and science fiction novel set in an alternate historical London will capture your attention from the very first page. Everything in this world is powered by myth.While there’s only a myth to describe how this power source of myth came about, it is a huge part of everyday life and is what allows some amazing steampunk inventions to exist. Myth can create everything, even unicorns to pull along the carriages for the richer families in New London. But as we learn what brought about myth, the plot will thicken and the story will spiral out of control.
Narrated in third person, THE UNNATURALISTS will switch between focusing on Vespa Nyx—the witch who dreams of being a scholarly Pedant that will forever seek knowledge of the unnaturals and Syrus Reed—the last Tinker who has a very truthful and wise view of the world despite being the tender age of thirteen. This continued narration from different perspectives is something that I truly enjoyed. Both characters were extremely different from each other, so we would often see the same characters or hear the same myths from two different perspectives. What Vespa may have grown up fearing is something that Syrus grew up worshipping. It was intriguing and added to the overall plot. Both characters were incredibly likable and I respected Vespa’s desire to be herself and do what she wanted instead of conforming to the convoluted whims of the Empress and the richer families of New London.
This novel was extremely unpredictable. Right when I thought I had things figured out, Trent would throw another plot twist in my way. Plot twists are plentiful and though they are completely unexpected, they make the story flow quickly and elegantly, never tripping a reader up.
Because New London is so complex, it took me a few chapters to sort everything out in the beginning of the book. With Pedants and an evil Empress, unnatural creatures ranging from a sphinx to a sylphid, and a Creeping Waste that can destroy everything, New London is incredibly imaginative and initially slightly hard to grasp because the sheer awesomeness of it all is overwhelming. I would recommend checking out the beautiful cover and remembering that Big Ben was turned into a hulking Tower with a large chimney up top. It’ll help you slip easily into the world that Trent created if you use that as a focal point.
Completely imaginative and totally unexpected, THE UNNATURALISTS will appeal to any reader of fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and steampunk. While there is the smallest glimmer of romance that plays an important role in the plot, this is not a book meant for romance lovers. This novel was an amazing start to (hopefully) a new series. While the ending thankfully was not a cliff-hanger, Trent still has me begging for more.