The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith #bookreview #TheLibraryOfTheUnwritten @ajhackwith @TitanBooks

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.

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Hi and welcome to Hell! Oh don’t worry, we won’t be staying long, we’re going to Seattle soon. No time for sight-seeing though, I’m sorry, no we won’t be able to visit the Space Needle, we have an escaped Hero to catch, don’t you know! What’s that? Oh well, see, we’re in the Library of the Unwritten, this is where all the books reside that are dreamed and pondered but not (yet) committed to paper. And these books are alive, they’re asleep, and they can wake up at any moment, and when they do, a character can slip from between the pages and become corporeal, a real person to all intents and purposes. But see, they’re not allowed to do that, parts of a book are not supposed to live and learn and experience outside their book, outside their story. And now, a Hero has gone and got away, in search of his author. I don’t really need to tell you that unwritten characters aren’t supposed to talk to their authors, right? So, that’s why librarian Claire, her apprentice and ex-muse Brevity and newbie demon Leto (and we!) are going to Seattle: to find Hero, get him back in his book, and return said book safely to the Unwritten Wing. Seems like quite the straightforward adventure, but alas, quests are rarely this simple, I mean, it did take Frodo and his fellowship three books to return one silly ring right? So, yeah, we might need to take a raven into Valhalla, convince a fallen angel not to murder us, have our souls balanced by a crocodile god or whatever, fight off a Hellhound or two (or twenty) so come prepared, OK. Oh and bring sunglasses, ‘cause you’re not supposed to look into the Face of God, just so you know.

Right! Still with me, or are you off to call the loony bin 😬 In summary: there is a lot going on in The Library of the Unwritten, and that’s a bit of an understatement. There’s 400+ pages filled with all sorts of fantastical beings and events but it never gets crowded or unnecessarily complicated. The Library is fantasy for a very wide audience, including readers who aren’t overly into fantasy. It has a low threshold, and it’s has so many facets. It had adventures and quests and mysteries to be solved, it explores friendships and the relationships between unlikely allies, it has humour (I for one never got tired of all the derogative names Claire has for the Dark Lord, or her dark dry humour in general) and the element that stood out most for me: it radiates love for words and stories and books, and applauds their power. The pen is mightier than the sword and knowledge is power, not mere sayings but literal truths in The Library, where foes can be defeated with words rather than swords.

The characters are absolutely brilliant, imaginative, fleshed out and well-rounded and so real that I wouldn’t be surprised to find one of them having coffee (or tea in Claire’s case) in my kitchen one morning. A muse, a gargoyle, a Hero, emancipated damsels, demons, Viking warriors, (fallen) angels, and of course, a kick-ass librarian! But hey, I’m a Buffy fan, no need to convince me that librarians are awesome and that there’s more to them than meets the eye!

The Library of the Unwritten is a fun, imaginative read, and an ode to books and their characters everywhere, even the unwritten ones. Although I had closure at the end of The Library, with mysteries solved and questions answered, I’m already looking forward to the next instalment. Recommended!

Be sure to check out A.J.’s website here for more information about her and her books, and some free short stories!

Huge thanks to Lydia Gittins at Titan Books for gifting me a proof copy! All opinions are my own.

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