Title: The Library at Mount Char
Author: Scott Hawkins
Published: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publisher Website: link
I usually try to start off a review with a brief summary of the plot (main themes/storylines and such) before going into my thoughts about the book. But this is one where I don’t know where to start because any attempt to summarize this book would no doubt fall way short of doing it anything close to justice. And while it’s not a disjointed story by any means, there are just so many themes and takeaways here that I could probably write an entire treatise on the depth that exists within this book. That said, I will make an (admittedly feeble) attempt to present the gist of the story so you will know if it might be for you (though I will say that if you like fantasy–especially urban fantasy–anything dark, or character-driven stories with an interesting array of side characters, this is probably a must read).
Carolyn is a librarian. But she’s not the kind of librarian you think of when you hear that word. No, she is one of twelve students of a man she knows as Father, a very powerful man who adopted her and her now siblings when she was a child. Father has a vast library and each of his twelve students is responsible for reading, understanding, and mastering a specific catalog from within the library. But these books, like their owner, are not ordinary, and the power that they contain is beyond what a normal American could ever imagine. And Father will settle for nothing but the highest level of effort, success, and obedience from his students–even if he must use brute force to get it.
But now Father has gone missing and the librarians have reassembled to try to find out where he’s gone and if he’s okay. The dynamics between Carolyn and her siblings aren’t what an outsider would necessarily describe as functional, but they do all have a vested interest in finding the man who raised them and getting back into the library to continue their studies. But to do so, they will need to enlist the help of some outsiders–Americans–and their involvement quickly reveals there is much more going on here than meets the eye…
This book definitely seems a little strange at first, but that’s because it is different. And until you get a sense of Carolyn and the initial backstory, it’s easy to wonder what exactly is going on. But don’t worry, you’ll wonder that through most of the book, but in different ways with each chapter. As it all starts to come together, if you’re like me, you will be in awe at the foreshadowing and the various other hints that have been dropped along the way.
Hawkins does an excellent job of keeping the story moving forward and occasionally inserting what he labels as ‘Interludes’ which take readers back in time before the story to provide just enough of Carolyn’s past to better understand what is going on in the present. And the character dynamics and interactions do not disappoint at all.
I definitely give this a very high recommendation. It’s up there among the best books I’ve read so far this year, and I’m glad I picked it up.