I admit it, I judged this book by its cover … and I was not disappointed. In fact, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is now one of my favourite novels.
As anyone who reads a lot will know, it is hard to be surprised by a story. Tropes are everywhere, and while they can certainly be enjoyable they can also make stories and characters a bit predictable. This book had me wondering what could possibly be happening, and surprised by whatever came next. It has been a while since a story kept me on my toes the way that this one did and made for a very exhilarating read!
Carolyn and her adopted siblings have been raised by a man they call Father for almost as long as they can remember. He teaches each child to be an expert in a subsection of his library, with teaching methods that are often quite cruel.
As the children master their library catalogues they gain fantastical abilities that relate to their area of study. The story opens when they are adults, then the narrative jumps around in time.
The storytelling is masterfully done. Scott Hawkins keeps his readers on the edge of their seat by revealing things in bits and pieces. While you start off accumulating only more questions, by the end of the book you have a complete picture of everything that has come together like the final image of a jigsaw puzzle. Characters are discovered the same way and the revelations can completely change your opinion of who they are. I found myself empathizing with characters I never thought I could.
This is a story about revenge and the bonds that tie people together, but it is so different from your average story. There is some dark and disturbing content, however it is all essential to the narrative. Hawkins has written an amazingly creative book and it is hard to believe it is his debut novel.
The Library at Mount Char is a beautiful, twisted, and layered story. I absolutely loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from Scott Hawkins.
— Ashley T.