In this week’s In My Opinion Review we get to talk about a novel with librarians who have the power to change the past, rewrite the laws of physics, and resurrect themselves after they’ve died. That’s right, this week we’ll be jumping into The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins.
This is a bizarre book, in case you couldn’t tell from my opening statement. The writing style is magnificent and the way Hawkins pits characters against each other is story-telling at its finest. But, I’ll be the first admit that sometimes you need to reread something to make sure you saw it correctly. Like: “Wait, so that little girl was the sun? The sun, sun? But… how? She’s a girl and the sun is… a star. I’m confused.” Or my favorite, “He looked down at the lion before entering the library. ‘Ready to go, girl?’ The lion swished its tail in agreement.” You’ve got thousand year old tigers that have magical powers, people who exist outside of time, and librarians who are essentially gods. But, DAMN, this book is so good.
PLOT: That’s a bit hard to explain. The book’s summary says the story is about ‘a war beyond our comprehension that threatens to destroy everything we know exists. Whoever wins said war will control everyone and everything. Whoever controls the library controls everything.’ And while that’s not wrong, that is such a vague summary it’s ridiculous. So, really quick, here’s the set up: An ancient deity named Father has controlled the universe for a few thousands years, since he beat the last guy who owned the universe, and he’s kept our planet peaceful. About 30 years ago he adopted 12 kids into his massive, infinitely large library and gave each of the children a subject unique to them to study, and they weren’t allowed to share topics. Topics such as language, murder, death, the future, mathematics, animals, nature, healing, etc. The story begins as the children are exiled from the library and no one knows where Father is. The children, now full-grown adults, fight to take control of the library and the infinite knowledge stored within.
Take it away, Hawkins!
SETTING/IMAGERY: The story takes place over a two month period and stays mostly within Virginia and Washington D.C. But, Hawkins creates enough diverse areas within those limits that we go everywhere from the inside of a prison’s chapel to the operation room of a veterinarian to the oval office of the White House. While Hawkins does a great job of setting up the scene using sensory descriptions, I will say there were a few times that I wish he’d elaborate more so I know more of what a place looks like. Sometimes he rushes through a scene too quickly or only gives the bare-minimum of description so he can move on. That’s probably my only complaint. I wish I had more description of what the really odd places were like. He passed them too quickly.
CHARACTERS: Readers can always tell when an author is bored with their story. Readers can also always tell when an author is having fun with their characters throwing them into dangerous situations and enjoying where the story is taking them. Throughout 90% of this novel Hawkins is having loads of fun, it’s easy to tell. From the banter and interactions between all the siblings from the library, to the random encounters with Steve covered in blood and followed by a giant lion. It was fantastic to go along with Hawkins on this journey of badass action and world-changing conflicts. The characters are what make this novel shine, as it should be. Stories should revolve around the people in them, and the characters should be what drives a novel. That’s the case with this novel. Excellent.
VERDICT: Can you handle cussing? Can you handle a peripheral character dying every so often to further the plot? Then PICK UP THIS BOOK. This is the type of story that you can’t put down. I found myself reading this for far longer times that I expected. It’s deceptive in it’s length, as well. It looks small enough, but somehow it took me longer than most books to get through 100 pages. That said, I would still greatly recommend this book to anyone who likes speculative fiction and wants a damn good read. Damn good, bloody good, damn good job. In my opinion, that is.