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Review: The Library at Mount Char

Updated: Sep 12

4/5 stars ... I think?

The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins (2015)

Uhhmmm. So. THAT was weird. Honestly it's the weirdest book I've ever read, but also still enjoyed. This book left me asking, "what just happened?" at the end of every one of it's 388 pages. But it's so compelling! It doesn't so much "draw you in" as it drags you along behind as it throws you, somewhat violently, into the plot. It's like having a really wild dream where you're just trying desperately to keep up, trying to make sense of the wacky things that keep happening all around you. Hawkins is truly masterful at doling out information slowly - just enough to keep you GLUED to the page, and not so frustrated with confusion that you give up.


So, what is it about? First off, I'm going to steal someone else's description of the book as a "devious, bizarre, pitch-black, evilly sardonic, take-no-prisoners adventure novel." Also, throw in a little Quentin Tarantino-esque kind of off-the-wall, humorous gore (entrails hanging off a murderer's shoulder as he walks past a body with no head), and super powers with Umbrella Academy levels of eccentricity (an awesome show on Netflix, if you're not familiar). It's fantasy/speculative fiction. There are demon/god/monster things with names like "Q-33 North," "the Forest God," "Mithragani," and, of course, because why not, "Barry O'Shea." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Oh. Right. The plot? Well, there's this guy called Father (who is also maybe God? Or A God, anyway), and he adopts a bunch of orphaned kids, and trains them in his Library. Each has a specialization. For instance, the protagonist, Carolyn, studies languages - not just every human language that has ever existed, but animal languages, the language of wind storms, etc. Michael studies animals; David - war and murder; Margaret - death; Jane - healing... the list goes on. I'm not even totally sure how many of them there were. When Father goes missing, these "Librarians" must try to find out what happened to him, and sort out who will gain control of the Library, complete with all the secrets (and power) of the universe, one assumes.


That's all I can tell you. I don't think I've ever meant this sentence more: It's better if you go in with as little information as possible. If everything I've already said intrigues you, then definitely give it a try. I feel like you'll know within a few pages if it's too wacky for you.


I have read books before that were super weird where I just got annoyed because I thought the author was trying to create something that was cool because it didn't make sense. Like a mysterious fever dream, but, ya know, the kind where I'm like, "Ok, stop telling me your weird-ass dream," as opposed to the kind where I'm like, "That is so crazy - you should turn it into a short story!"


This book is not one of those ones that annoyed me. I really enjoyed reading this book. But I realized after-the-fact that "I enjoyed reading it" isn't quite the same thing as "I liked it." I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It's complex and confusing, and... I think I'm going to read it again!

UP NEXT: Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson


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