The Library at Mount Char

Better late than never, or so they say.

I wish I'd read Scott Hawkins' The Library at Mount Char when it originally came out in 2016, but I never received an ARC of the book. Picked it up a few months ago during an ebook sale and was looking forward to finally discovering what the buzz was all about. Love it or hate it, this is a novel that leaves no reader indifferent and I wanted to find out for myself what I'd think about it.

First and foremost, you need to understand that The Library at Mount Char is a unique work of fiction that defies all labels. You have never read something quite like it and that's a fact. To say that the book is weird would be a gross understatement. Yet I really enjoyed it, even though I'm not quite sure how to articulate how I feel.

Here's the blurb:

Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts.

After all, she was a normal American herself once.

That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.

But Carolyn has accounted for this.

And Carolyn has a plan.

The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.

The cover blurb does a good job describing the premise of this novel. And yet, as mentioned, the plot of The Library at Mount Char defies all descriptions. It's a weird tale, no doubt about it. One filled with graphic violence and gore. One so odd at times that you wonder what the book is supposed to be about. But it's also a thought-provoking work filled with dark humor. I wish I could be clearer and give you a better idea of what it's all about. Alas, I can't and you'll have to find out for yourself.

The narrative unfolds through the eyes of three main protagonists. Carolyn, one of the Librarians, is decidedly odd. But there is more than meets the eye where she's concerned, as we soon find out. Steve, who practices Buddhism for assholes, is just a regular guy known for making spectacularly bad decisions. Yet there is more to this average Joe, something that somehow links him to Carolyn and the Library. Erwin Charles Leffington left a stellar career in the Army to become a special agent for Homeland Security. He is investigating a murder case in which Steve is involved when the proverbial shit hits the fan. The Library at Mount Char can be a disturbing book and the cast is often repulsive to begin with. But as the story progresses and you get to know them and their backstories, they definitely start to grow on you.

Although the novel is never boring, the first few chapters can be a bit off-putting. It takes a while for things to start making sense and for nearly half of the book you basically have no idea what's going on. The only advice I can offer is to just buckle up and enjoy the ride. Trust me, it will all make sense in good time. You just have to trust that Scott Hawkins knows what he's doing. It may feel as though the author is making everything up as he goes along, but this is a beautifully crafted and multilayered plot.

There are portions of The Library at Mount Char which are slow-moving, especially early on. But the novel doesn't suffer from any true pacing issues. And once the storylines start to come together, the book takes off and moves at a good clip toward a surprising finale that closes the show with style.

Dark, disconcerting, and humorous in equal measures, The Library at Mount Char is an engaging read that will leave no one indifferent. I'll be lining up for whatever Scott Hawkins writes next!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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