The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

I heard about The Library at Mount Char through my book club. We always do a little what-are-you-reading-besides-the-club-book round table. One of the girls talked about Mount Char a couple times. I was immediately attracted to the name. She could never really describe what the book was about, but said it was worth the read. So when I saw the audiobook pop up on hoopla, I immediately downloaded it and settled in, prepared for a certain kind of read. This book club focuses on young adult books. Even though I knew this wasn’t YA, you know, I had perceptions (that were totally made with no supporting documentation). Have I mentioned that I’m also terrible at reading book blurbs? Especially on books that are recommended to me? I typically read the first line or two and then just open and read the first paragraph of the book. I was unprepared.

What the fuck did I just read? I now understand why she couldn’t explain the book when she was recommending it. For the first 2-3 hours of the book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to keep listening. Not that I didn’t want to keep reading it, but there was so much going on and there were so many characters that I didn’t know if listening was the best way to imbibe this particular novel. But I persevered and it got easier. Kind of.

This is not an easy book. Maybe it is for people who read a lot of fantasy and are used to all that information being thrown at them, but for me – holy crap this brain made my brain hurt in the best possible way. The reader is dropped right into this world – which is finely balanced between our own world and the fantasy world – there’s no gentle submersion here. This is hard and fast.  This is not a book for the light hearted. It is full of death and destruction and people doing terrible things to each other, even their family members.

The general premise revolves around a woman named Carolyn who starts the novel walking down the road, covered in blood, after just murdering someone. She does not feel bad about what she’s done. Her biggest concern is making sure no one stops to pick her up. Through bouncing chronology, we get the story of the dozen siblings (including Carolyn) learning the powers of their library catalogues – be that language, animals, death, life, murder, whatever. They are tortured by their father until they get it perfect. Father and siblings are the terms they use, but none of these kids are actually related. They were all taken by father in their youth and are tortured and tormented by him until he disappears and they must try to figure out where he is. This is where the books current action takes place – in Carolyn’s search for father.

There’s no real way to talk about this book without ruining some of its chemistry. It’s like that really weird friend that you meet and are immediately sure that you’re not going to like, but the more time you spend with them, the more you like them, and eventually, you can’t imagine not having had them enter your life. But when you try to explain that friend to other people, you can’t explain why they’re your friend. I still don’t even know what I really think about this book. I’ve read it but can’t describe it easily. I liked it a lot, but I can’t tell if it’s actually good. It’s got moments of the truly terrible (think burning a child to death inside a bbq) but it isn’t offputting. I cannot stop thinking about it.

There are moments in this book where I thought, oh, maybe this book is actually non-fiction – it would make some of the political actions around the world make more sense. But that was a terrifying thought and I pushed it away.

Part crime drama. Part fantasy. Part time/dimension bending. It’s nothing like I expected. All I can do is recommend it to people. The library is magical. This book captures that in a way no other book I’ve read has.

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4 thoughts on “The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

  1. Intriguing review but also a little intimidating. I’ll bump this up higher in my to read list and compare my thoughts to yours when it’s all said and done.

  2. And done. Thanks for the recommendation, it was right up my alley. If there was section in the library for weird niche stories like this one I would consume them all because I had a blast reading this.

    I agree with your whole review. This book is hard to describe and all you can do is recommend it to others. I have a feeling that the story and characters are going to stick with me for a while.

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