Scott Hawkins’s THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR is a surreal, compulsively readable, wildly inventive urban fantasy about a library whose ancient knowledge grants its owner virtually infinite power, and what happens after its godlike owner disappears. I loved it.
The story focuses on two main characters, Margaret, an orphan taken in with other children by Father to learn the mysteries of the Library, and Steve, an ordinary guy drawn into the intrigue to both solve the mystery of Father’s disappearance and possibly decide who will control the Library and become God.
The result reads a little like AMERICAN GODS, but while I personally found Gaiman’s gods kind of show-offy and grating, Father’s children–each specializing in a separate catalog granting them a single extreme power/knowledge base–come across as real people twisted by their horrific childhood spent training and by their powers themselves, resulting in a unique story with intense stakes encompassing all of reality.
In this remarkable debut, Hawkins gets almost everything right for me. The story constantly moves forward with great characters, believable yet fantastic situations, immersive lore, and mystery and conflict. While Carolyn is a fantastic protagonist and Steve is very likeable, the real star of the book is the mysterious Father and the Library itself, a vast trove of knowledge that grants its students unlimited power and is surrounded by titillating mythology.
On his website, Hawkins said he’d like to do a sequel but won’t until he comes up with the right idea to do it justice, which makes me respect him even more. Either way, I’ll be reading more of this author when his next work comes out.