There is something about a story in which a library is one of the settings. It doesn’t matter if the library is a fantasy or really exists, the library establishes the tone of the story, one in which the love of possibility and knowledge, as well as a reverence for the written word, are key. A. J. Hackwith puts this auto-generated tone to good use in her devilishly good novel, The Library of the Unwritten.
There is so much to love within the pages of The Library of the Unwritten. Claire is a great heroine. Determined, unafraid, erudite, and exacting, she is exactly what you would expect of a librarian. Except, she is not all rule-following and sternness. As you discover more about her and her past, it makes those moments when she does break the rules more impactful.
I also love Ms. Hackwith’s clever approach to the afterlife. In her world, there is no such thing as one Hell and one Heaven. Rather, one goes to the afterlife of his or her religious belief, whether it is ancient Egypt, Buddhist, or Christian. This inclusion is satisfying on many levels, one of which is the fact it is a harmonious approach to the many belief systems that exist around the world. Instead of drawing a line in the proverbial sand that there is only one afterlife option, Ms. Hackwith includes them all to emphasize the point that anything is possible.
As much as I enjoyed The Library of the Unwritten, it is not without its issues. For one, there are times in which the plot becomes a little too convenient to be believable. The identity of one particular character, while interesting and a nice way to tie Claire’s past to her present, does not appear to be necessary to the overall story. There are other instances of situations resolving themselves a little too easily. In addition, some of the imagery is a little clunky.
Those issues are minor, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Library of the Unwritten. I am eager to see where Ms. Hackwith takes the story next. In particular, I hope we get to know more of Claire’s backstory. I would also love to learn how people become librarians in Hell and how Hell actually works since it appears a lot more complicated than one might think. One thing is for sure, the sequel should have more of the fantastic character interaction and Claire’s prickly personality to entertain us.