Taken in my library. A drawing of a library with the border attempting to mimic the burnt edges on the original book. The Library at Mount Char. A Kodak brownie box camera splits the two; I’m unsure as to how old this camera might be.
Every so often you read a book that stumps you as a reader. Unable to connect to the characters and yet a compelling enough story to keep you moving forward to see if perhaps something will click. You will relate to a character and the story will become that much more interesting. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins was one of those books for me. Being a fantasy and horror buff reading through many of the big series (Dragonlance, Lord of the Rings, Malazan Book of the Fallen, Game of Thrones, The Dark Tower, and so on) this one defies one to link too. I likened it too a mix between Stephen King and Douglas Adam. King’s dark fantasy combined with Adams’ bizarre humour at times.
It’s really hard to give a high level overview without giving anything away so I’d leave it to you to check out the Amazon synopsis which really does a good job of summarizing and teasing the story. Overall the idea of the story is sound and at points really out there, innovative and enjoyable. The characters and story are well thought out and Scott Hawkins does a good job bringing the story full circle at the end.
Having come from many of the biggest fantasy series’ I’d say character development was a weakness. You want to know the characters. The back stories and everything else about them and in one book it’s hard to get there. You are introduced to so many characters that at times you forget who is who. Case in point all of the children. There are a dozen children and yet sitting here writing this review I’d be unable to name half of them because the development just wasn’t there. The greats in the horror/fantasy genre know that building out a character so that you can relate or at least understand and either love/hate make sure these pieces are well defined.
As you make your way through the story there are some great points identified and you almost wish more time was spent telling what happened. The jail scene, the children growing up, the ending, etc. It all felt rushed. The story was interesting and captivating but you move through it so quickly that at the end I felt somewhat unsatisfied on the level of immersion.
“Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.” – Scott Hawkins, The Library at Mount Char
A strange book indeed. I liked the story and the characters were fascinating albeit felt like sketches of their true selves. The pace was fast and at points you move years into the future and only realize afterwards. This universe / story could have been greatly expanded on and it would have been even more fulfilling in my opinion. Scott Hawkins definitely knows how to write an interesting and captivating story and I’d definitely consider his next book but would it stand up against a different fantasy series; at this point I’d have to say no.
Overall I’d give this book a 3 out of 5 given that it had a cool factor, it was original, and ultimately a fun read. If I closed my eyes this felt like a screenplay for an upcoming movie. More character development and really working through the story would have made this story more interesting for me. I’d love to have spend time understanding the Library itself and really delved into how it tied to the Universe, history, etc. Perhaps that will come if this becomes a series but at this point all we can do is wait and see.