All books, no matter their binding, will fall to dust. The stories they carry may last longer. They might outlive the paper, the library, even the language in which they were first written.
But the greatest story can reach the stars . .
Evar has lived his whole life trapped within a vast library, older than empires and larger than cities.
Livira has spent hers in a tiny settlement out on the Dust where no one goes and nightmares stalk.
The world has never noticed them. That’s about to change.
Confession. This is my first ever Mark Lawrence book. There are quite a few fans of his works among the FFA team, but I somehow just never got around to any of his books until now. This is my first, but it definitely won’t be my last.
This book follows two main characters. Livira is a young girl who grows up in the outskirts; a place called the Dust. She is a tough kid who dreams of life beyond her humble village. Her dreams quickly come true when her settlement is attacked and the children all taken prisoner by the creatures known as Sabbers. She ends up being taken to the city and becomes an apprentice librarian in the Library.
We also follow Evar. Evar has been stuck inside the inner chambers of the Library his whole life and lives there with his siblings and the guardians (who reminded me of androids or something similar) who take care of them. He too dreams of a different life beyond the stacks that he is trapped within.
The library is the main setting for the bulk of the story, and it’s so big it’s actually more of a labyrinth. Nobody knows how big it is or the depth of the knowledge and secrets it contains.
This book was one that took some time to grow on me. I initially really loved the writing style, and continued to adore it as the book went on. It was the story that had me scratching my head a little at first. Not that it wasn’t interesting but I felt like we were thrown right in the middle of a story with the background left out. Lots of tidbits are given throughout that at first made me think I had missed something. After finishing I can now really appreciate what Lawrence was doing. My advice to readers would be that, if you are like me, to keep those niggling thoughts in your mind, let them germinate there as you keep reading and trust the author. If your experience is at all like my own then it will all come together in a way that’s truly beautiful. It was maybe 40% in that things started coming together, and by the time the end finale had begun I couldn’t put the book down.
The world is full of rich detail and I loved learning about it all as we went through. The setting of a magnificent library that’s as old as time, with seemingly endless halls and just as many secrets is every bookworm’s dream setting. Livira is a great character to follow. I love her introduction in the opening paragraphs. I instantly liked her from page 1. Evar, who has been trapped in the library for his whole life, has a different story but one I was equally engaged in. They are very different to one another but as their stories intertwine they realise their dreams are more alike than they would have thought. The side characters too were all nuanced and intriguing. A great cast overall.
At times the book reminded me of Laini Taylor’s style, in terms of the imagination and the story, and at other times it is much more intense and dark, as I hear Lawrence’s other works are. Themes touched on include war, fear, the nature of knowledge and information, time, friendship and challenging your presumptions. There is a great sense of mystery too, and the characters and reader can all sense there is more to things than meets the eye. I loved how this aspect of the book was handled.
Oh! And the epigraphs! I am sure I missed some easter eggs to Lawrence’s other works but these were all so good.
The story has some twists that had me gasping out loud, and I loved them all. They are the kind of twists I love the best. The ones that don’t completely blind side you, but as soon as it’s all revealed you instantly see it all fall into place.
The book doesn’t necessarily hold your hand, and readers need to pay attention as this book has a big story to tell and you should make sure to take it all in.
If you take any recommendation of mine on board this year, please let this be one of them. It really is a fantastic book that made an impression on me that few books have for a long time. A beautifully written book that I will be thinking about for a long time to come.