I found this book by happy accident. Namely, my book club thought it looked cool, and I love their discussions so much that I am compelled to read their picks. I won’t lie, most of the book reviews from the past year resulted from my book club. You guys rock.
Claire is the librarian for The Library of the Unwritten, Hell’s own library for stories that were never completed by their authors. Most of these stories sleep quietly, but occasionally, their characters get anxious and try to escape. On one such escape, a Hero seeks out his author with the intent of inspiring her to finish writing his story, something that is totally against the rules. During his retrieval from the mortal world things go horribly wrong. The angels believe that Claire has the text of the Devil’s bible, a powerful weapon meant to upset the balance between Heaven and Hell. They will do anything to stop her from finding it’s pages.
If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that I have a weakness for excellent writing. The Library of the Unwritten is one of those books where the reader is continually delighted by a clever turn of phrase or an exceptional description. The most remarkable part of this book is the concepts engineered to make the worlds work together and the elaborate otherness of it all.
The Library itself is such a cool concept. Imagine, you think of a story and perhaps start to jot it down. As you work and think, the people and things in the story take on form and begin to live. What happens when the story is abandoned? Where do those characters go when the end of their tale isn’t written? In this essence, the library is a purgatory for books and everything they contain. They are stuck in limbo and hold all the potential their story has to offer, waiting for the author to pick up the pen once more. For those stories who’s authors have died, the characters who are restless and won’t stay in their books are allowed to live out the eternities in the Damsel suite, a protected place where they can learn and grow however they choose.
Claire is a compelling and complex character who is fairly snarky and has the wherewithal to dish it out. Her accompanying cast are a circus act blend of characters that include fallen angels, demons, a muse, and the people who spring from the unwritten stories.
As for the story itself, I was hooked right from the start. The idea that there was this librarian who curated unwritten books alone was so interesting that for the first third of the book I simply had to read more to see how all the different ideas were woven together. Don’t get me wrong, the story was interesting, but I think I read more because I was amazed at the creativity of it all – and the excellent writing. I did get a little tired near the two thirds mark, which might have been because I couldn’t relate to the stakes, or that my head cold muddled my brain, not sure which. However, the thrilling conclusion tied everything back together in a pyrotechnic fueled extravaganza that left this reader satisfied.
This one is tough to place. It’s not a traditional fantasy and skirts into the realm of magical realism. The publisher categorizes it into humorous fantasy, and it was funny at times, but for me that doesn’t fit as well. Is there an existential fantasy category?
I’d recommend this for those who love excellent world and concept building that keeps the reader surprised, you’ll find plenty of it here. Also, for those creatives out there, this is a love letter to inspiration and where it lives when you are off doing other things. Authors especially will enjoy this book because of the many, many references to how we treat our characters, and how they might treat us in return.
However, for those who have issues with the ideology of Heaven and Hell, or of demons interacting with humans, this book will be a problem. There’s some straight up blasphemy in here, creatively used, of course.
I give The Library of the Unwritten a solid 4/5 stars.
Hey, you look like someone who loves a really good read. I’ve got a little something for you. Consider it a tiny gift from me. “Breath” is a short story about Fauna, the original elemental guardian of souls and her journey to take part in the secret her charges possess.
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