Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins

Today I'm looking at a book recommended to me by a friend, The Library at Mount Char. This book mostly follows Carolyn, one of twelve children adopted by their Father on a day in 1977. Each of the twelve children are responsible for one of the twelve catalogs, the categories of knowledge within Father's vast and seemingly limitless library. Why the god-like Father had chosen the twelve of them is a mystery but the children learn very quickly to not ask unnecessary questions. But one day, Father disappears and all twelve of the children are unable to even get close to the Library. It seems impossible but if Father is dead, then the power of the Library is up for grabs and whoever can get their first will rule the universe.

I have to admit this book is pretty...creepy. Creepier than most stuff that I'd normally read. The premise on the book summary was interesting to me but the book itself went into an entirely different direction than I expected it to. Which is good. It's different and I think the plot was well-written and it was something I wouldn't normally have read otherwise so I'm glad my friend suggested it to me. But that doesn't keep it from being really creepy and dark all the same which can make it a little scary to read.

Part of the fun of this book is figuring out the plot as you go along as well. Things are not as they seem from the beginning and over time you get a better and better feeling that something is very wrong. The hints are little towards the beginning, almost innocuous, but as they get more obvious and you start seeing that things aren't quite adding up your mind starts going down certain tracks. As a result I wasn't terribly surprised by the plot twists, but I felt like I could anticipate them without ruining the tension of the novel. It's also done in achronological order so you get different parts of the story at different times which keeps you trying to guess or figure out what the heck is going on.

Hawkins also does considerable world-building, although it isn't detailed an encyclopedic. Hawkins tends to hint at or mention things rather than explain them outright, such as the friends, servants, and enemies of Father. And honestly, I think that works for the length of the book which is just under 400 pages. If this was a thicker, slow-burner, doorstop of a book I'd ask for just a little bit more detail when it came to Hawkins's world. With the length of the book I think he did a right amount of worldbuilding without letting the plot suffer. I am wondering if he has a plan for other books utilizing the same characters, since it ended on a call to action, but that remains to be seen.

If you're looking for something different and more than a little creepy, this book is definitely worth checking out. It's not quite my favorite, but I wouldn't say it's a bad one either.

- Kalpar

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