Wow, this book may just be the most refreshing read I’ve read in 2016 thus far, actually probably the most refreshing read I’ve read in quite a long time. It seems in this day and age it is nearly impossible to find unique novels that don’t seem to recycle the same storyline, tropes, and characters over and over again. But this novel accomplishes being incredibly unique, as well as creating a story that is generally fascinating and unpredictable.
The story itself follows Carolyn, a librarian, but she’s not the type of librarian that you and I would think of, she is something so much more then that. After she and eleven of her peers were orphaned, a man, who goes by Father, took the children in and raised and trained them in a place known as the Library. Each child was given a specific catalogue, an area to study and master, but they were only to study their own catalogue and not the other children’s. Carolyn’s catalogue became language, and it was her job to learn every single language that existed, including the languages of different species of animals. Now Carolyn is an adult and nearly a master of her catalogue, but Father is missing and the Library is blocked from her and her brothers and sisters. Together they must use their skills to try to find Father. Which eventually leads Carolyn to Steve, a plumber with a bad past, who Carolyn employs to help her. But to do what exactly, is the real question.
This book is full of so many twists and turns and I just enjoyed it immensely. This book is a fantasy novel unlike any fantasy novel that I have ever read, which is saying a lot for the genre considering the insane number of books published each year as fantasy. I really enjoyed the personification of certain things and the treatment of people, animals, and the earth as equals. There is definitely a level of humor throughout the novel, definitely on the darker side of humor but appreciated nonetheless. My favorite quote of the novel comes from Steve, who was sort of an aspiring Buddhist:
Steve sighed, wishing for a cigarette. “The Buddha teaches respect for all life.”
“Oh.” She considered this. “Are you a Buddhist?”
“No, I’m an asshole. But I keep trying.” (217)
Included in the very unique group of characters is a primitive warrior man who wears a tutu, a pair of devoted lions, a woman who spends more time dead then alive, and a man who may very well be god. Each character brings a unique skill-set and story that I really enjoy. The story, itself, jumps back and forth between present day and then to the past where the history of Carolyn and the other children is explained, as well as the history of other characters, and at first it may feel a little hard to keep up, but the pace is definitely something that is gotten used to about a quarter into the book I would say. That would be my biggest complaint, though, is that it took me a little while to kind of figure out what was going on, but that could very well have been more my own fault then anything else, as I kept getting distracted when I first picked the book up. It is very fast paced and there is constantly something going on to keep your attention. I really think this book makes an interesting statement about a lot of things, like life for instance, and the loss of things that are sacred. It is definitely the most unique fantasy novel I have read in quite some time and I really high recommend it. This is actually Scott Hawkins’ debut novel and I have to say what a wonderful debut it is. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
I would like to thank Blogging for Books, who sent me this copy for review, as well as Broadway Books, the publisher of the novel. Although I did receive the book to review, the comments above are my own honest opinion.