I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Oddity by Eli Brown. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Oddity, Clover is the daughter of a physician, but she is fascinated by more than medical science—she’s captivated by oddities, rumored magical objects scattered across the world. But her father insists there’s more pressing matters, like the impending war with France after the recently failed Louisiana Purchase. Then, when her father is killed, Clover finds herself on a journey across the country for answers, answers which might have something to do with oddities. The more she learns, the more she realizes how ignorant she has been, and how much power she has within herself.
This is an interesting concept, an alternate history/fantasy set in the United States, and it’s a really good time!
I like Clover as a protagonist—she’s bright and kind and capable, without being a Mary Sue. Some of the time, I felt she didn’t have much agency, but was kind of being swept along by the plot rather than being proactive, but I still rooted for her. And by the end, she goes through some great character development and really comes into her own.
The other characters were decent, too. Hannibal was fantastic, though I wanted more of him. Same with Nessa and Aaron Agate. I didn’t really like Willit, though I wasn’t supposed to, so that’s all right then. The best side character, though, was definitely Susanna. She’s a ton of fun.
As for the plot, I found it a little meandering. As I touched on before, I felt like there should have been more of a concrete goal that Clover was working towards. Yes, she wanted to find Agate, but that wasn’t the core of the story in the end. I feel like it took a little too long to reveal that the endgame was learning about her heritage. Still, that isn’t to say that this book was boring or confusing; there is a lot of entertainment in the obstacles Clover faces.
The alternate magical universe that Brown has created here was fun; the way that real history and politics were incorporated into a world where magical artifacts exist was clever. The settings felt vivid, the world felt lived in. I also appreciated that Brown attempted not to misrepresent Native American tribes. He has a note at the beginning of the book that rather than appropriate the names, cultures, and languages of real tribes, he elected to create fictional ones based on fact. He admits it’s not a perfect solution, but I’m so glad he had the respect and sense not to do what Stephenie Meyer did to the Quileute Tribe.
In the end, Oddity was an enjoyable adventure through a magical 1800s United States. The magic is whimsical, and the settings are wonderful. While the plot isn’t the best, and I wanted a little more from some of the characters, it’s far from a bad book. And I finished it with the sense that there could easily be a sequel, but who knows? It stands on its own well enough, and is definitely worth a read.
Overall rating: 8/10
Oddity will be published on March 30th, 2021!