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The Unnaturalists Hardcover – August 14, 2012

33 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Unnaturalists Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-In the world of New London, science has replaced religion, and magic and witchcraft are considered heretical. Machinery is powered by the mysterious substance, Myth. Vespa Nyx, 17, is the daughter of a scholar who works at the Museum of Unnatural History. Although she wishes to spend her life cataloging Unnatural creatures, she is being pressured to marry and abandon her studies. After a near-fatal encounter with a captive Sphinx at the museum and a mysterious Pedant named Hal, Vespa begins to realize that she is in fact the last surviving witch in New London. In a parallel plot, Syrus Reed, member of an indigent Tinker clan, is forced into hiding after a raid in which members of his family are killed or kidnapped and forced to work in the Myth refinery. The Tinkers are the only inhabitants of New London who openly respect and acknowledge the Unnatural creatures, which they refer to as Elementals and see as essential to the balance of the world order. Predictably, Vespa and Syrus find themselves working together to save their world. This is an entertaining mix of steampunk and fantasy. It is very plot-driven, with some intriguing world-building details, such as the origin story of New London involving Saint Tesla, and the stained-glass window depicting Saint Pasteur smiting the Demon Byron. Readers may be confused about the workings of this fantasy world unless they have read the short story "The Emperor's Man" in the anthology Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, 2011), which is a prequel to this novel.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

In this gaslight fantasy, parts of Victorian London have been transported to a land inhabited by creatures from myth. Dubbed unnaturals, they are on the verge of being exterminated by a corrupt government. Though Saint Darwin’s Church of Science and Technology reigns supreme and magic has been forbidden, an odious sorcerer schemes to kill the last manticore and use the dragon’s heart it guards to power a device that will reopen the gate between worlds. Against him are 16-year-old Vespa, a naive exhibit preparator in the Museum of Unnatural History, and younger teen Syrus, member of a clan of downtrodden Tinkers (modeled on a Chinese ethnic minority group, the author claims). To no evident purpose, Trent switches her narrative’s tense and person in alternate chapters. But along with providing Vespa with magical powers of her own, an upper-class rebel magician as a romantic foil, and a genuinely nasty opponent, the author crafts an engagingly violent, suspenseful tale that leads to a wild climax and, in the end, just deserts all round. Grades 6-9. --John Peters

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: Unnaturalists
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442422068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442422063
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tiffany Trent grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, surrounded by mountains and books. She is the author of the young adult fantasy novel THE UNNATURALISTS, a Green Earth Book Award Honor book. She is also the author of the HALLOWMERE series and several short stories. When not writing, she can usually be found playing with bees, chasing chickens, or contemplating pie. Find her online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jessabella Reads on August 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One of the best steampunk novels I have ever read! I absolutely loved this one and highly recommend it! The characters were beautifully thought out and very lovable. Vespa is fierce and brave, everything you need in a heroine. The world of New London was vividly imagined. Creepy yet beautiful at the same time. The book alternated perspectives between first-person narration by Vespa, and third-person narration with Syrus. It gave two completely different perspectives and made the story twice as good. I wanted to dive into this world and never return! I find that a lot of steampunk out there is just more of the same, but The Unnaturalists was surprisingly different. Soo refreshing. You will love this one! For more of my reviews of great reads, check out my blog @
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By AJ VINE VOICE on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The worldbuilding in THE UNNATURALISTS is top notch. Fantastical creatures, mysterious magic, deadly consequences for those who misuse it, and an origin story that is so good it deserves it's own book. An entire society sprang up after Tesla-yes the Tesla-broke through to another world and took half of London with him. There is no way back, so New London has progressed from this point in several alternate ways from ours. The Victorian era never ended, and Steampunk/magic progressed. Science and Logic are the religion of the day with references to St. Darwin and St. Bacon. All these little details unfold beautifully and naturally throughout the book without ever resorting to dreaded info dumps.

Of the two protagonists in THE UNNATURALISTS, I only ended up connecting with Vespa, the curious and ambitious daughter of The Museum of Unnatural History curator. She had a contagious excitement about the creatures she studied and a reckless streak that got her into just enough trouble to be interesting without being foolhardy. Syrus fell a bit flat for me. He was written in 3rd person and is much younger. His life as an outcast Tinker just didn't grab me even as numerous tragedies befell him.

There is a small romance in THE UNNATURALISTS, though not between Vespa and Syrus. It didn't quite come together for me as I never fully bought into Vespa's attraction for this guy. She fell pretty quickly and repeatedly threw herself at him. I would have preferred it if Vespa had kept her hormones in check and let the potential relationship simmer. I didn't end up feeling her anxiety when various obstacles sprang up between them.

Splitting chapters between two protagonists slowed things down as ultimately only one had a compelling story. The romance also failed to entice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mandy Wilson on September 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I may be rather peculiar as a reader; some people read for the plot, but I get lost in the settings and the characters. In this respect, The Unnaturalists was a masterful work. The setting was unique -- an alternate, magical London. The characters were convincing and, while not perfect people, real enough that you didn't question their motives, which makes them -- in my book -- perfect characters.

The one thing I would question about this book is its target audience. While I think this was written for people in their teens, there are aspects of the plot which I think would evade some younger readers. The characters -- especially in their relationships with each other -- are very complicated, and there are many facets at work here that do not lead to a pat ending -- and, in fact, there is no "pat" ending and in the other reviews I have read, I believe that this was unsatisfying for some of the young readers. An adult reader, however, would not be disturbed by it ... I'm afraid that is all I can say without needing to tag the spoiler flag.

I look forward to reading other books by this author.(
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John on August 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So I had almost randomly picked up this book, wasn't to sure what to expect, although after reading it, I'm glad I picked it up. The book is very well written, the world that was built in this novel is great and very interesting. Contrary to what a particular review has stated, this "cast of characters" is not confusing at all, it's very obvious who the main players are and who the unnaturals are, I think that review was just trying to bash it on purpose. At times, Vespa can be a bit annoying, and her powers are underutilized. So why did I give it 4 stars and not 3? I gave this book 4 starts because in the end, the book was very entertaining and the problems are very minor in how the effect the story and the great world that was built.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lili's Reflections on July 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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