Tuesday, March 9, 2021

MG review of Oddity by Eli Brown, illustrated by Karin Rytter

Oddity by Eli Brown
Format:   E-ARC
Publisher:  Walker Books US
Number of Pages:  368
Publishing:  March 30th, 2021
Source: Edelweiss + 

Opening Lines:  " Are you keeping mice in your bag again?  Constantine asked, turning in his saddle to peer at his daughter."

From Goodreads:  "The daughter of a murdered physician vows to protect the magical Oddity he left behind—if only she knew what it was—in an alternate nineteenth century where the United States is at war with France."

Clover mostly enjoys assisting her father as he makes his medical rounds in the foothills of the Centurian Mountains, but what she is especially enamored by are oddities, rare everyday items that behave in peculiar and unique ways.  Like the Ice Hook 
that she's been carrying around in her haversack that can freeze everything it touches.  Or perhaps the wineglass that is rumored to be able to fill a lake with an endless supply of wine.  Items that if Clover's father knew she possessed, he'd surely force her to get rid of, despite her own mother having collected them as a member of the Society of Scholars.  Then one day while Clover and her father were making their way home from one of their medical visits, they encounter a group of men barring their passage across the bridge.  Sensing these men plan to do them harm, Clover's father hands her his medical bag, with the cryptic message that it contains a rare oddity that she alone must protect.  He also tells her to find Aaron Agate in New Manchester by looking for "the canary among doves," and then throws her off the bridge into the water below.  Clover witnesses the bandits murdering her father, before fleeing to safety into the nearby forest.  While in the forest, Clover happens upon a rooster fighting off a dog,  and is surprised when the rooster begins to speak, introducing himself as Colonel Hannibal Furlong of the Federal Army.  Clover has always known about the war between the US and France over the Louisiana Purchase, but to encounter a living oddity such as Colonel Furlong comes as quite a shock.  He is only the first of many uncanny allies that will help Clover on her adventure to New Manchester.            

Oddity takes place in the early 1800's and presents an alternate history to the Louisiana Purchase.  On one side is Napoleon Bonaparte who appears to have the advantage due to his endless supply of soldiers.   On the other side is Senator Auburn, who has been purchasing all of the oddities he can find to determine a solution to Bonaparte's advantage.  He is assisted by Smalt, a wraith like creature who wears a hat that can purge you of all your secrets and the men who murdered Clover's father.    Mixed in with these two sides is the Seamstress, who creates these vermin creatures that sound horrific, reanimated corpses made up of watch springs, steel fillings and held together with parts of the animals skeletal structure and a piece of blue thread.  Yep, kinda delightfully creepy.  Throughout Clovers adventure, she is beset on all sides by people who want to use her for their own purpose.  To gain the oddity her father entrusted in her , to use her as a force against the French, or even to pay off a debt.  However, Clover is a resourceful girl and ultimately puzzles out the explanation for how the war began isn't accurate, and that it is just a struggle for power between the two sides.  At the same time, she unravels the mystery of her mom's death and is able to bring an end to this unjust war.  My favorite oddity was Susanna, the doll with immense strength and an attitude to match.   


  1. I need to read this. Thank you.

    1. I hope you get the chance, sure would like to know what you think too.

  2. This sounds very intriguing. I have a friend whose daughter's name is Clover- so I will have to tell her about this too (fun when you find your name in a book). The alternate history angle is fascinating. Thanks for putting this one on my radar. :)

    1. I so agree, it's not often that I can find a Brenda book character, but that one time I was in the acknowledgements, I was so over the moon.

  3. This caught my eye because I wondered if this is the same Eli Brown who wrote adult novel Cinnamon and Gunpowder... and apparently it is! I like the general premise of this but am not sure about reading a book set in alternate US history, as someone who is not super familiar with US history in general.

    1. That makes total sense. Despite not being as familiar with the history myself, I did enjoy it.