With blurbs by two of my all-time favourite authors, Juliet Marillier & Seanan McGuire, I had very high hopes for The Library of the Unwritten. The synopsis also caught my attention; there is a library in Hell where all the unwritten books live and when one of these novels manifests as one of its own characters, the head librarian, a muse and a nervous demon messenger must venture to Earth (as well as other afterlife realms) and trouble ensues. Magic, books, muses, demons, angels, mythology, Heaven & Hell and a tonne of sass and snark – this book is certainly good fun.
The writing is excellent and I was fully absorbed in the world from the first page. There are no dense descriptions of the world, magical lore or character histories, it jumped straight into the plot. Hackwith has mastered the less-is-more approach and I never felt that more context or description was needed to understand the plot, it flowed easily even with several point-of-view character chapters. I enjoyed the banter between the characters, especially when things seemed hopeless.
‘Yes. Well, eating your colleague is a bit of a faux pas.’
There were twists and turns that I didn’t see coming which is always a positive and by the end I felt quite connected to two of the main protagonists, Claire and Hero. We follow three other POV characters apart from Claire; Leto (messenger), Brevity (muse) and Ramiel (angel) and while none of their chapters were boring in the slightest, I just didn’t connect with them as much as Claire and Hero. I would have loved reading Hero’s point of view, he is such an interesting & complex creation. Ramiel in particular I feel could have been a little more fleshed out. As the angel POV character and the antagonist for a large part of the story I feel like understanding his history and motivations better would have been beneficial, as by the end I didn’t find his actions and behaviour all that convincing.
While the end was gripping, the middle lost a bit of momentum for me. When I first picked this up I practically flew through the first 100 or so pages and I definitely didn’t put it down for the last 100, but somewhere in the middle it lost a bit of oomph. This meant that when I wasn’t reading, I wasn’t eager to get back to it. In fact, after a day at work in-between reads I was even thinking about not finishing it – not because it was bad, but because I was indifferent to picking it up. The first story arc had finished and the second, ultimately satisfying, arc hadn’t picked up enough for me to care. It’s a difficult feeling to articulate in a review because I did end up enjoying this and loved the worlds and shenanigans Claire & co. got up to, but something was definitely missing in the middle. Maybe I shouldn’t have put it down, but at over 400 pages it’s not exactly the easiest non-stop read…
Overall, this was a really fun read with an intriguing premise and suffused with humour.
‘The trouble with reading is it goes to your head. Read too many books and you get savvy. You begin to think you know which kind of story you’re in.
Then some stupid git with a cosmic quill fucks you over.’