Synopsis ~ Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold spandex bicycle shorts. After all, she was once an American herself. Of course, that was a long time ago, and since then Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. The experience has left them at times wondering if their cruel leader might actually be God.
Now Father is missing–perhaps even dead–and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded for the first time. Whoever gains control over it will also have control over all of creation.
Carolyn will need every tool at her disposal for the coming battle, as fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.
Reading The Library at Mount Char is an experience quite unlike any other. If you had Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, got them drunk/high and then asked them to write a story together, they might come up with something like this.
I just finished this book and it’s still going to be difficult to pull together a coherent review, but here it goes.
When I first saw this offered on NetGalley I thought it looked like just my cup of tea. A mystical Library with twelve mysterious librarians? I think I was picturing some of my favorite heroes like:
and of course
But no. Carolyn and her siblings aren’t the type of librarians you ever want to meet unless you have a hankering for a horrifying painful and gruesome death. Each of them start out as perfectly ordinary children who live in the same development, but when a mysterious cataclysmic event kills all of their parents, they’re “adopted” by Adam Black, aka Father, who brings to mind some of the worst cult leaders in history. Actually, he could give them lessons in perversion and cruelty. Over the next several years, each child is assigned a catalog to learn. David’s is the catalog of murder techniques, Jennifer’s healing and medicine, Michael’s the language of animals, and so on. Carolyn’s is languages, and she becomes proficient in not just all the known languages of the world, but also those of animals, nature, and myth and legend. Out of all the many rules they are taught the biggest one is that they are not to learn any catalog but their own for that would give them too much power. When Father goes missing, the”children”, who are now adults, are forced out of the Library and decide to go find him. The problem is many of them have their own hidden agendas, including Carolyn, and they don’t exactly play well with each other. With the prize being control over the Library and all of creation itself, it’s hard to guess who will come out the winner.
Carolyn, as the protagonist, isn’t the most likeable character. Despite her obvious emotional scarring at the hands of Father, her callousness and indifference toward those around her make it difficult to feel any real sympathy for her. This is a woman for who the term”collateral damage” is a personal mantra. Even at the end of the book when it’s divulged exactly what happened that fateful day when she and the others lost their parents, I still didn’t care for her. That said, she’s incredibly complex and the way she’s written is unforgettable. She’s the type of character who stays stuck in your head long after you’ve finished the story. I think the only characters I liked unequivocally were Michael, who reminded me of Brendan Frasier’s Tarzan and was sweet in a disturbing sort of way, and Steve, a reformed burgler who finds his life upended after meeting Carolyn. There’s also Erwin, a war hero, now government agent who has a truly unique perspective on life and people.
The book contains many horrifying scenes including some involving animals which made it difficult to read at times. They’re not thrown in gratuitously though and they’re integral to the plot. Thankfully, these are tempered by humorous moments which had me laughing out loud.The first 50 or so pages begin slowly, but after that the pacing continuously picked up and I had a difficult time putting this down. The main reason why I’m only giving this 4 stars is because Scott Hawkins literally throws just about everything but the kitchen sink into his concoction, and because of this, I found myself having to go back and re-read previous passages, and even at the end I was still left feeling confused about a few things. This is such a unique and imaginative novel though, I know at some point I’ll read it again. If you’re a fan of Stephen King, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, or Clive Barker, I highly recommend this. It’s not something you’ll soon forget!