Blurb Book Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (spoilers ahead)

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Image from my favourite source: Goodreads.com

I put this book on hold at the library because I read a review that said it was weird and that there was nothing quite like it out there. I’m looking for comparable titles for my own book, so I thought this might fit. It doesn’t, not quite, but it was an amazing read. So amazing that I’d like to buy a copy just to have on hand.

The story starts out normal enough. A person named Carolyn is walking down the road, covered in blood and barefoot. She had just murdered someone but wasn’t ruffled at all. Very quickly, the reader learns that she’s something called a librarian but didn’t start out as one, and that she had vague memories of being American.

Information is doled out in little packets. We learn that her cul-de-sac was hit by something when she was young, the neighbourhood children survived, and became librarians with specialties known as ‘catalogues’. Her catalogue was languages; past, present, imaginary, and real.

The author weaves in dimensional realities in a way that felt natural and, well, right. Not once did I feel lost, not once did I have to go back and reread something to confirm information. I was instantly engrossed in the story of Carolyn and her quest to search for Father, the entity that trains the children on their catalogues. He’s missing, and Carolyn and her siblings cannot access the library to search for him.

Carolyn does more than search for Father. She sets up a series of events so she may murder Father and take over his reign. I was absolutely thrilled that she wasn’t thwarted at all, that she did succeed, that her brothers and sisters were eradicated in this process. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine, to read how the protagonist is constantly having to alter the plan and change tactics because of a worthy adversary. Some stories suit this well, but this one had enough going for it that constant threats to her plan would’ve been tiresome. I know that I just gave away the ending, but really, the book is worth reading page by page simply for the experience of existing in this universe.

The author also ensured the reader never forgot the fantastical nature of the world. Carolyn and her siblings never quite dressed according to social norms, their conversational skills were lacking but adequate, and their explanations of events showed how different their world was compared to our world. Really excellent anchoring from the author.

The narrative flow was so excellent, so engrossing for me, that I searched to see if the author has written anything else. Why yes, yes there are other works. Except they’re technical manuals for Linux and whatnot.

Like I said above, the story was revealed in perfect sized bits, and arranged in a manner that made the novel easy to read and follow. I very much want to take each scene apart and reconstruct the book in linear form, but only so I can understand it better and apply it to my own work. The author’s voice makes me want to be a better writer, to make other people read my stuff and feel as electrified and energized as I do from reading this book.

I seriously considered writing fan fiction of this, simply to keep myself engrossed in the world for a little bit longer. I may still do so, but when I have enough energy to focus on more than one thing at a time.

If you’re looking for something different but still realistic enough to keep you grounded, for something so well written that guessing the next step is nigh impossible, read this book. I will be recommending it to everyone whose queries even vaguely apply.

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