Goodreads: The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn
Published: February 2, 2016
An alchemist peddles a new magical invention and the key that could unlock Lettie Peppercorn’s family secrets in this quirky tale of self-discovery, family, and friendship (The Independent).
Lettie Peppercorn cannot go outside. Ma told her so right before Ma disappeared forever. So Lettie’s house is on stilts, and she is stuck with only the wind and a pigeon for a friend. Nothing exciting has ever happened to her until the night a strange merchant appears.
He claims to be an alchemist the greatest that ever lived and he is here to sell Lettie his newest invention. It’s an invention that could change Lettie’s life and the world forever. An invention called snow.
But snow is not the only secret he holds. The alchemist knows where Lettie’s Ma is. And Lettie will do anything to get Ma back even if it means risking her own life.
The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn introduces readers to a world where anything can happen. Well, anything can happen to anyone besides Lettie herself, who has been forbidden to step foot on the ground in a mysterious note her mother left when she disappeared. At least Lettie’s family owns an inn, where occasionally interesting people come to her. However, all that changes when a man comes to the inn who claims to sell something called “snow.” Oh, and he knows something about Lettie’s mother. Suddenly facing whatever dangers are on the ground seems very worthwhile to Lettie.
The story has an incredibly unique premise–that snow is something the world have never seen before, and it’s something magical that can be whipped up by alchemist. That makes it rare, valuably so, and some people will do anything to get their hands on it. I give mad props to author Sam Gayton for writing a story that simply does not remind me of anything else I’ve ever read. It isn’t a “fun take” or a “new twist.” It’s simply new, and for that I quite appreciated it.
The characters are also a pleasure to read about. Lettie is spunky, those she doesn’t necessarily have a lot of real-world experience. And she makes fast friends with a charming and brave boy from a land where people are born with stalks on their shoulders. There’s also a delightful pet bird, because who doesn’t’ love cute animal companions in stories?
However, the book introduces a number of scenarios it doesn’t fully explore. More than once, a character leaves another character in a situation where it’s enormously likely they would die…and there’s simply no comment on this. It’s as if because killing the person wasn’t the primary intention and because the person didn’t die anyway, the fact that they were left to die doesn’t count. If anyone does die, it’s implied they deserved it. I’m not entirely pleased with this morality, especially as the primary vice in the novel is greed—which doesn’t seem like a capital offense. There’s also little done to distinguish between greedy characters who can be redeemed and ones who cannot. Perhaps I should just shrug and say, “Well, real life is arbitrary about these things, too, so the book is just mirroring life.” But I get the sense that wasn’t the author’s intention, so there’s definitely some sort of failing here.
I liked The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn, and I am quite pleased that it’s a story I cannot immediately compare to any other story. I give it many points for being unique. However, I just didn’t fall in love with it or with Lettie as a protagonist, so I’m giving it three stars. I think a lot of readers will enjoy it; it’s just not going on my shelf of favorite books.