I love books that sneak up on you when you’re not looking. I especially enjoy it when it’s from a new author with a debut novel that offers up something unique. Scott Hawkins’ has done this with The Library at Mount Char, a mind-bending tale that delivers a contemporary fantasy story complete with its own mythology and rules for how the world works. What initially grabbed my attention was the blurb for the review copy that was sent out to me. Take a read:
[The Library at Mount Char is] marked by a deadpan, darkly playful sense of humor, with a quirky cast of characters including a Buddhist burglar-turned-plumber, a lion named Naga, a war hero who insists on being called Erwin, and the most terrifying killer ever to don a tutu.
And you know what? Those character descriptions are just a small sampling of the strangeness found in this story. Be aware that the book does change POV often–but while some books are hindered by too many primary characters and jumps in locale, it’s a strength for Library.
So, what’s it about? Okay, try to stick with me. Carolyn has ten step-brothers and step-sisters who all live in Father’s house. Each of them has been taught by Father a specific talent or subject from the massive library–so massive, it exists beyond the physical boundaries of the house that holds it–that exists inside the house. David has learned every aspect of killing and warfare the world has every known… plus some it hasn’t discovered yet. And yes, he does wear a ballerina’s tutu. And the reason for it makes total sense once you discover just how deadly and psychotic David has become from Father’s lessons and discipline. Jennifer can heal… even bring the dead back to life. And that’s a good thing, because step-sister Margaret has been taught all about death; she’s died so many times that her brothers and sisters have lost count. Other brothers and sisters have learned about the future, speaking with animals, and other topics. Carolyn’s duty is to learn every language in existence.
Father has forbidden the family to learn beyond their areas of expertise. Punishments for doing this are deeply disturbing, and vary from sibling to sibling. Margaret can expect to be killed by Father in a manner that teaches her a new aspect of death. David’s punishments typically involve pain and suffering to make him more deadly… more psychotic. These punishments have kept Carolyn fenced in, so to speak… but for someone who can read any language known to man (plus a few that aren’t), an infinite library of books would be the biggest temptation in the world. Carolyn is taking risks in the library, but it doesn’t matter because Father has gone missing.
While the siblings search for Father using their contacts, their skills, and a few other-worldly artifacts, Homeland Security agent Erwin (that’s it… just call him Erwin. Even the President of the USA has to call him Erwin. Seriously.) is hot on the trail of Carolyn after an unusual crime is committed involving Carolyn and Steven, the Buddhist/burglar/plumber. As Erwin’s investigation leads him to a strange house on Mount Char (surrounded by an even stranger neighborhood of attack dogs and mindless homeowners who live their lives on Repeat day after day after day), Carolyn’s siblings are beginning to take sides in a battle that has been brewing for eons.
Nutshell: I loved this story. It was just so much fun to read, and I hated reaching the last page… although, to be honest, it did leave on a cliffhanger that hopefully *HOPEFULLY* means the story isn’t done.
As I said, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a new novel like The Library at Mount Char that really delivers something so unique. Don’t let this one pass you by.