Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: June 1st, 2021
Synopsis: “Sixth Sense” meets “Stranger Things” in T.L. Huchu’s “The Library of the Dead,” a sharp, contemporary fantasy, following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy, magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunter?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper someone’s bewitching children—leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down. (Goodreads)
The Library of the Dead didn’t succeed in hooking me until I was almost 100 pages in, but once I passed that point, I couldn’t stop reading.
There’s a lot going on in this post-apocalyptic Edinburgh, that I think is slightly in the future. The exact time period is never really made clear, but given the technology and references to the not too distant past, I’m guessing it’s not that many years ahead of 2021. There’s been an unknown “Catastrophe” which has definitely made a huge impact, but it’s never explained what happened. And characters keep referring to the “King” which likewise remained a mystery throughout the story. I’m assuming more information will be given in subsequent books.
This first book’s focus is on fifteen-year-old Ropa, with her green dreadlocks, black lipstick, and um, extremely colorful language. Ropa is also half Zimbabwean and half Scottish, which is an intriguing mix. She’s smart, sarcastic, has a pet fox and can outswear a sailor, sometimes to hilarious effect. Outwardly, she’s a tough cookie and is stubborn as well as courageous. She determinedly takes care of her Nan, who is blind and has diabetes, and makes sure her younger sister goes to school. Once she’s introduced into the world of the Library, by her friend Jomo, she opens her heart more and lets in new friends. The secondary characters are interesting and include Priya, a young herbologist and healer who is confined to a wheelchair due to a spinal injury.
The world building is intriguing, but as I said, incomplete. Thankfully, knowing that this is the beginning of a series, ultimately made this more tantalizing than annoying for the most part. I loved the blend of magic, science, and supernatural, which added to my eagerness for more. Except for the first 1/3 of the book, the rest is extremely fast-paced and the ending wrapped up the mystery neatly.
The Library of the Dead is a promising beginning to Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series. It’s a unique urban fantasy that stands out from other books of the genre, with a colorful heroine I guarantee readers will love. While Ropa is only fifteen, because of some of the darker imagery and at times sexually risqué language, I’d recommend this for older teens and adults. Otherwise, it’s a highly entertaining read, and I can’t wait for the next book!