Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Library at Mount Char

Carolyn has a lot in common with normal people. She likes guacamole and cigarettes, but her knowledge of modern conveniences is sketchy at best. Years ago, she was a normal American child until her parents were killed and the man she comes to know as Father adopted her and other children around her own age. Father isn't just a man. He creates kings, raises the dead, kills on a whim, and doles out swift and cruel punishments for disobedience. They all get a portion of Father's library to study, but are not allowed to venture out of their area of expertise. One day, Father is missing and Carolyn and her siblings can no longer enter the Library. Father's rivals are gathering and Carolyn must gather all her allies in order to protect his vast power.

The Library at Mount Char is a fascinating book that shows fantasy as I've never seen it. We are thrown right into Carolyn's world that coexists separately from our own. Her world has two sides. One is magical (although she insists there is nothing actually magical about it). Her catalog is language and she learns every single language in existence: known, forgotten, animal, etc. She and her siblings are essentially immortal. With other's catalogs, she and her siblings have access to healing powers, the power to heal the dead, and the power to do things mankind has only dreamed of. It's brilliant that the most powerful being in the universe is so because of a library, which is the amalgamation of all his knowledge. The other side of her world is disturbing and incredibly cruel. If their Father isn't obeyed, his punishments are swift and unforgettable. They very often include death and unimaginable pain. Death isn't even an escape because he simply brings them back to dole out more punishment. The most physically powerful of them, David, is a monster and doesn't hesitate to take out his frustration on his siblings. Carolyn is one of the more meek and quiet, so the others consider her an easy target. Throughout the novel, she proves over and over that she is much more powerful and strong than she seems.

The book is written in an unexpected way. Sometimes chapters just follow seemingly random people for a few pages before that character or situation is connected to the rest of the narrative. The main characters are Carolyn, Steve the hapless normal guy that gets mixed up in all this, and Erwin the seasoned military man. It was nice to have the perspective of people outside of Carolyn's library. The plot goes to some wild places I never saw coming. The twists and turns gave me whiplash and I compulsively turned to the next page to see what would happen next. The story also has HUGE ramifications on our world and it gets pretty crazy. I was starting to get bored with the book when the big climax happened about 3/4's of the way through the book, but stay on through to the end. It's definitely worth it. Disparate events and characters turn out to be connected and it was wonderful to read everything fall into place.

Scott Hawkins' fiction debut impressed the hell out of me. The Library at Mount Char throws together fantasy, thriller, and horror with a dash of philosophy and makes a bizarre book that works for me on every level. I will read pretty much anything else Hawkins writes. His imagination is crazy and it's clear that he has no shortage of fresh ideas. I hope some sort of of follow up to this comes out even though it's a wonderful stand alone.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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