Eleven-year-old Ivy and her brother Seb, 14, discover a surprising parallel world of uncommon objects and people when their grandmother is injured just after Christmas.
A serendipitous acquaintance, brown-skinned Valian, transports white Ivy and Seb to the cavernous under-London site of an annual “uncommon” market, Lundinor, a kind of enormous Diagon Alley. Here objects containing bits of souls behave in unusual, seemingly magical ways: lemon squeezers glow as lamps; the local police force zaps recalcitrant suspects with toilet brushes; belts can lift their holders aloft. The uncommoners are devoted to acquiring and trading in these phenomenal occurrences of otherwise quotidian objects. An often told family story about their grandmother’s girlhood car accident and amnesia takes on new meaning as Ivy and Seb’s parents are held for ransom until someone produces the Great Uncommon Good—an uncommon object of extraordinary value sought for its potential to wield power in the common world. The resident community of the dead, formerly in service to the dark ambition of a trading guild known as the Dirge, is filled with both good and nefarious sorts—ghouls, selkies, hobs, and multiple others. Bell’s worldbuilding is convincing and good-humored, full of detail and a rich variety of unusual manifestations and people. There’s plenty of exposition and back story to support the adventure promised to continue in subsequent volumes of this trilogy.
An auspicious trilogy opener. (Fantasy. 9-12)