The Book That Broke the World

I was looking forward to reading The Book That Broke the World.

The first volume, The Book That Wouldn't Burn, was Mark Lawrence's longest work to date and it wasn't exactly a good thing. Up until that point, I had always felt that the author was concise and none of his scenes were overwritten. Sadly, many sequences, especially those featuring Livira, felt a bit superfluous or longer than they needed to be. For the better part of the first half of the novel, everything moved rather slowly and not much happened for a long while. Not surprisingly, Lawrence more than made up for it in the second half, bringing the first installment to a satisfying ending. Trouble is, as is usually his wont, Lawrence closed the show with another frustrating cliffhanger. Thankfully, the author's quite reliable and we only had to wait a year for the sequel.

The Book That Broke the World is another solid effort, and I've come to expect nothing less of Mark Lawrence. Still, it does suffer from the same shortcomings shown by its predecessor and the storylines occasionally appear to be meandering a little aimlessly in certain portions of the tale. As far as I know, at least in my experience, it's the first time that anything written by Lawrence seems to suffer from the infamous middle book syndrome. Having said that, I could also be the problem here. Perhaps the fault lies in my not being able to follow everything that goes on across time and space the way I was meant to. Hence, your mileage may vary in that regard.

Here's the blurb:

Two people living in a world connected by an immense and mysterious library must fight for those they love in the second book in a new trilogy from the international bestselling author of The Book That Wouldn’t Burn.

The Library spans worlds and times. It touches and joins distant places. It is memory and future. And amid its vastness Evar Eventari both found, and lost, Livira Page.

Evar has been forced to flee the library, driven before an implacable foe. Livira, trapped in a ghost world, has to recover the book she wrote—one which is the only true threat to the library’s existence—if she’s to return to her life.

While Evar’s journey leads him outside into a world he’s never seen, Livira’s path will taker her deep inside her own writing, where she must wrestle with her stories in order to reclaim the volume in which they were written.

The secret war that defines the library has chosen its champions and set them on the board. The time has come when they must fight for what they believe, or lose everything.

At the heart of this latest series lies an infinite library containing all the knowledge ever written down. We now know that this library is connected to other such repositories across the entire known universe and across time itself. The implication behind such a need is that all species, no matter where and when a certain technological level is reached, will always elevate warfare to a point where they end up on the brink of extinction. And given their inevitable quest toward self-destruction, can this cycle ever be reversed? We learned that the very first library by was built by Irad, the grandson of Cain and thus the great-grandson of Adam and Eve. Jaspeth, his brother, believes that the library glorifies the original sin of knowledge and seeks its destruction. In a clash that echoes down through the ages, the library has become the symbol of the war waged by the two brothers, a conflict opposing knowledge and ignorance. Mark Lawrence came up with some intriguing concepts like the Mechanism, the Exchange, and the Assistants, and I was really looking forward to discovering more about the library and its secrets. And though there are some revelations, I was a bit disappointed by the fact that a good chunk of the action from The Book That Broke the World occurs outside of the library. And even if we do learn more about the library and the universe at large, Lawrence once again keeps his cards close to his chest as far as the worldbuilding is concerned.

In The Book That Wouldn't Burn, the story unfolded through the eyes of two protagonists: Livira Page, a precocious girl from the Dust, and Evar Eventari, a young man who has spent his entire life trapped inside a part of the library with no exits and who was raised by the Assistant. Mark Lawrence excels at first person narratives and in my opinion that's one of the things that made his previous works so compelling. As mentioned, many of Livira's scenes felt a bit overlong and not always essential, which hurt the balance I expected from the two perspectives. This second volume also includes new POVs, which in the end exacerbated this problem. The tale is growing and the group got separated at the end of the first installment, so the author needed new perspectives that would allow the reader to follow what's taking place. Arpix, the serious young librarian, and Celcha, a ganar slave (a new species introduced in this novel) excavating dig sites for ancient treasures with her brother Hellet, are worthy additions. Indeed, Celcha and Hellet's plotline turned out to be the most fascinating of the book. It's just that again, the absence of a certain kind of balance between the POVs impacts the overall reading experience negatively. Celcha and her brother's storyline, so well-established at the beginning, gets a fast-forward treatment towards the end that completely robs it of the emotional impact it was meant to convey. All the while, you have scenes in the middle of the book that felt a bit overdone or extraneous, which is why I felt that the plot meanders a bit aimlessly at times. Furthermore, did we really need another interracial romance?

That being said, in The Book That Broke the World the author nevertheless takes us on a journey across time and dimensions, in a tale that keeps expanding across time and space. And if the novel does suffer from pacing issues, especially in the middle, you should know by now that Lawrence always delivers a rousing endgame and an exciting finale. Indeed, there seems to be more action in this one than what the author has accustomed us to. Regardless of all this, I still have mixed feelings overall about this sequel. While there are aspects that I quite enjoyed, other things put me off more than I thought they would. In the end, I believe that Mark Lawrence just shines more when he writes first person narratives and that he might not be as comfortable with multiple POVs.

Of course, I still want to read the final installment as soon as I can get my hands on it! That goes without saying!

The final verdict: 7.5/10

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