The premise was beyond amazing – from the library, the actual mission of the librarians, the use of language to the idea of chaos and the alternate worlds. Reading the descriptions of the library and the love for books made me smile and wish I were part of that world; it was incredibly immersive. The concept of using language was cleverly done – it gave a whole new meaning to the idea that words are incredibly powerful. (The quote “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it” came to mind). It was also good to see that Language too had its own limits as opposed to being completely omnipotent.
“The atmosphere of the place soothed her automatically; the rich lantern lights, the sheer scent of paper and leather, and the fact that everywhere she looked, there were books, books, beautiful books.”
However, I found the characters, especially the main protagonist and main villain to be somewhat lacking. There was a lack of depth to Irene especially. It felt as if the Irene presented hadn’t quite been finished as a character and was still in the early stages of being drafted and thought of. (On a side note, I was also vaguely surprised when i managed to figure out a twist way before any of the other characters – for some reason, it took some of the enjoyment out of the book).
Additionally, Alberich was supposed to come off as someone who makes everyone (even the most experienced of librarians) cower in fear just by the mere mention of his name. This was not conveyed enough and honestly, despite Alberich’s countless heinous crimes, I did not get that feeling of being scared for Irene when she did eventually come face to face with him. This was rather disappointing and the whole ending was a little anti-climactic because of it.
“and the deepest, most fundamental part of her life involved a love of books. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to shut the rest of the world out, and have nothing to worry about, except the next page of whatever she was reading.”
Having said that, the mystery that surrounded Kai held my interest until the end. What’s more, the array of different types of fantasy creatures depicted was amazing as was the author’s slightly different take on them rather than adhering to the typical portrayal. The whole concept of chaos was brilliant albeit a tad confusing when first introduced. But for me, this was something I hadn’t come across before when reading, so I found it rather original. Furthermore, the whole idea of different alternate worlds and realities was very nicely done.
The plot moved at a good pace, but again was missing that depth. There were a lot of questions that were left unanswered – some, to be fair were still acknowledged (but still not answered), whilst others were left completed unaddressed. One that falls in to the former category was the question of why does chaos break out? What is its true purpose essentially? An example of one that belongs to the latter category was simply ‘as well as travelling through space, can librarians travel through time? Arguably, given that this is a series of books, all these questions will be answered as the series progresses.
“We have to report this.”
Kai sighed deeply in relief. “I was afraid you were going to say that we had to investigate it ourselves.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Irene said briskly. “We may collect fiction, but we are not required to imitate the stupider parts of it.”
Overall, I was captivated by the over arching, ever present premise of the book. Yet, I was sorely let down by the lack of connection I felt towards the characters, due to them feeling too rough. Even though it can be strongly argued that character development normally happens slowly and over the series, there was still something lacking in them even for their debut appearance. This completely let the book down for me. Nevertheless, due to having such a strong premise that resonated with me, I will (at some point) be continuing on with the series.
“…no strategy ever survived contact with the enemy. Or, in the vernacular, Things Will Go Wrong. Be Prepared.”
P.S. I wasn’t able to make reservations at the library. They’re fully booked 😉