THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN
$17.00 trade paper, available now
Rating: 4.9* of five
The Publisher Says: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren't finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.
But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell...and Earth.
I CHECKED THIS BOOK OUT OF MY LOCAL LIBRARY. SUPPORT YOUR LIBRARIES...USE THEM OFTEN!
My Review: First, read this:
"...There’s nothing stronger than an unwritten book’s fascination with its author. But a book that finds its author often comes back damaged, and the author comes out . . . worse.”
“You surely didn’t think I got duty in the Unwritten Wing by random chance?”
Claire’s voice was hollow. She glanced at Leto with a paper-thin smile.
“You know how they say ‘Never meet your heroes’? For authors most of all, never meet your heroes. Ruins everything.”
Hell's Library is a multivalent torment to its creators, denizens, and those unlucky enough to be possessed by Story. Claire, our Librarian and an Unwritten Story author many times over, has reason to know the bitterest dregs of self-loathing and the self-knowledge it springs from. Our story, this one, the one we can actually read, is about the misery of knowing yourself as you are without knowing the way others know you. A motley band of adventurers is assembled to cope with a character's escape from his book in an ill-fated attempt to get his author to write him, to finish his story at last. Not only has he left the Unwritten Library, difficult enough to get a book out of there without a Librarian's approval, but he's taken his book with him.
And showed part of it, the beginning, to his author.
Thereby hangs this tale of rebellion, embattled souls, entrenched positions that must fall, and the startling void that you sense every time you fall, fail, flounder under a burden you don't entirely understand. When Claire brings the (self-)damned Muse Brevity, her librarian-in-training, on this wild goose chase, she wonders if it's all worth it:
In a constant war of immortal forces, ancient demigods, good and evil, the most powerful piece on the board is the fragile pawn of a human soul.
Even if stories and muses aren't given human souls, they originate from and build the stuff of those very souls.
She was walking on his ending, and for that, she walked lightly, calmly. For Claire was not one to throw away her life rashly for vengeance. She respected vengeance. Vengeance deserved time.
There is nothing in this book that is easy. Least of all the demands it makes of the damned beings in its story's ever-tightening coils.
But there is so very much to learn, to absorb, to revel in in the words that create it. I'm so delighted by this story. A library in a hell made up of the self-judged, the exiles by their own hands and hearts...well, what's not going to be delicious about that? I'm already a vocal fan of The Invisible Library series of YA novels, a lot less shady and unhappy than this story is but equally delicious. Dragons and Librarians who're out to save worlds? Yes please! In this story, the dragons are demons, and a lot more morally grey, but the point still is to protect, to defend, to prevent harm from coming to those who can't defend themselves. Except for that one story's Hero. Which is a ratty little thread left untrimmed into tidy story-logic....
There is so much pleasure in reading a story that layers in its concepts, like story logic, and leaves you to get on with picking the reasons you want to follow up for yourself. The main current of the story flows right on to the ending, the inevitability of which kept me turning pages past the moments I thought my heart would break. But there are dreamy little pockets of reality to poke around...vellum, parchment, leather being all the *skins* of dead things? the role of Malta in the Nuragic civilization, Mdina the Silent City, waitaminnit these bread crumbs are really tasty!...there are characters whose sibylline utterances and dulcet blandishments are not the red herrings you'd be forgiven for taking them to be, and there are deeper emotional resonances than you're going to want to look for.
This is A Story. Let it unfold and do your part by fixing its fractal reality as loosely as you can. Revel a bit, while you're immersed, in the explicit acceptance and celebration of #LoveIsLove as no one with a sexual nature trammels it into just one box. Letting the roles of the dramatis personae explain the characters to you is a good strategy when you're in these kinds of very deep waters:
We seek to preserve the books, of course. But we forget the flip side of that duty: treasure what we have. Honor the stories that speak to you, that give you something you need to keep going. Cherish stories while they are here.
It's very, very good advice from a character we have reason, in front of us, in this story, to trust.
What else this is, this carefully carved serving of a soul's prime rib, is a *perfect* film. A two-hour movie of quite stunning opulence awaits this book. Gloriously meaty roles for Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close, Henry Golding, a number of talents old and young await within. The scenes in Valhalla, well, does that need expansion? And the gorgeousness of the Unwritten Library itself, the Arcane Wing and Andras the Arcanist...no question but what there is a delight for the ages to be created from these bones. I hope someone will see and lust after the fame that would accrue to a big spectacle made from this.
But readers, those obsessive little producer/director/screenwriters of the mind, are the luckiest ones. We get to experience the catharsis of emotional devastation and despair of loss and humiliation without actual risk.
“The voice of the book. The music—the song of the tale. ... Every book has it—you know, the book’s way of talking, the words it uses, the rhythm of the speaker in your head as you read. Its voice. Each one a bit unique to the author and the tale. Before the written word, it was even more important. Every storyteller worth their salt knew how to create their own voice, mimic others, and find the beat that wove it.”
That is what Author Hackwith gives us with both hands in this gorgeous story, this vital and living piece of the stuff we humans have created the Hereafter from. A gift I hope you'll get into your readerly being and mull over, turn this way and that, study for its subtleties and complexities.
As investments of your eyeblinks go, there are few from which you'll derive more sustenance and fuller pleasure than this one. (Those three w-bombs aside.)