Book Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

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January 20, 2016
This book is bananas!

I don’t even know where to start with this review because my mind is still reeling after finishing it over the weekend. Another book picked out for no reason other than the /r/books bookclub chose it as their January read. The synopsis alone was so compelling that I decided to join in on the fun and oh, am I glad that I did!

This book is fantastic (both literally and figuratively)! It deals with elements of fantasy and horror and it is so engrossing, it’ll have you turning pages back and forth as you try to figure out what the hell is going on. I love it so much!

The Library at Mount Char tells the story of a group of children who are adopted by a mysterious man they call “Father” after their suburban neighborhood gets destroyed and their parents are killed. They are raised in his library of all knowledge, thus becoming “Librarians”, with each kid having a particular subject or catalog they have to masterMedicine, War, Languages, Death, etc., and they are not allowed to wander outside the realm of their particular skills.

The story begins a couple of decades after Adoption Day. Father is nowhere to be found and with his disappearance, a protective shield seems to have been cast around the Library, keeping the Librarians from entering their home. Now they must work together to find Father or devise a fight plan in the event that something has happened to him, all before word gets around that the Library (and with it, power over life, death and all creation) is unguarded and up for grabs.

Carolyn, librarian of languages, sets out into the real world to seek help from regular Americans, setting in motion a plan that is bound to shake up the entire universe.

There are no other words for this book other than insane. Although I suppose I could also call it inventive, unpredictable and brutal. And super confusing! At least for the first 100 pages. Scott Hawkins does not joke around throwing the reader into the story with little to no explanation of what’s going on, but he does a great job of diffusing any doubts through story progression and the occasional flashback. Normally, this kind of storytelling would annoy me and make me want to throw the book out the window, but it really worked for this particular story. Hawkins does not assume that you know and/or understand what’s going on; he’s purposefully letting you peek into this fantastic world he created before covering it up again, leaving you wondering if what you saw was for real or a trick of your imagination. He’s basically messing with your mind and laughing maniacally while doing it, probably.

It works, though! It puts you off enough to wonder if you’ll ever get what’s going on, but makes you so curious that you can’t help but keep reading, and the effort is worth it because once you start connecting the dots and it starts making sense, you’re in for the long haul. You just cannot put the book down!

I thought the story itself was very original, definitely like nothing I had ever read before. It combines so many elements that you’d think wouldn’t work very well together, and pulls it off nicely. It’s a fantasy book with so much violence and blood and cruelty, but it’s also very heart-warming and uplifting at times. The writing is very simple, with pages filled with nothing but dialogue at times, but the story is so captivating and the plot so complicated already that it’s easy to overlook that. Besides, the complex characters Scott Hawkins creates and their development definitely make up for whatever might be lacking writing-wise.

I really don’t want to talk too much about it because this book is hard to discuss without spoiling the hell out of it and that would be a disservice to anyone who hasn’t read it. The “the least you know about it, the better!” approach definitely applies to The Library at Mount Char! So go ahead and read it (you have to, it’s a must) and then come back so I can ramble for 500 more words about how much I love this book and the way Scott Hawkins was so careful with details and character progression, how the ending was so perfect and fitting and how I even loved the epilogue! Which didn’t even happen with Harry Potter!

So yes, go read it and take your time. I doubt I’ll forget about this book any time soon.

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