Book Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith ★★★

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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.

I definitely enjoyed this book! I think I’ve decided to give it 3.5 stars overall. The concept was very cool and I had been excited to read it ever since hearing about it a year ago. Ultimately, the concept was a bit more successful for me than the actual execution was, but I did still like it. If you’re looking for a “book about books” or a “book written for book lovers” or “a book about a magical library,” forget A Sorcery of Thorns and read this instead. It is a billion times better.

The Library of the Unwritten is the first book I have read by this author. I liked her writing style well enough and the actual skill level was there. However, there were just a few things that stuck out to me and dropped my enjoyment a tiny bit.

The book focuses on Claire, a librarian of the Unwritten Library in hell. This is where all of the books that were never written or left unfinished by their authors end up. We even learn that these can be books that still have the potential to be written or are not even thought up by their authors yet. They all reside in hell’s library. Claire has been a librarian there for hundreds of years, ever since she died and her soul was tied to hell and the library there. Claire has an assistant named Brevity, a muse, who is certainly her foil when it comes to personality. There are a bunch of characters that kind of team up and become a rag-tag troupe throughout the book, which is one of my favorite tropes. I am not sure what you call it. A fellowship trope or something like that? Either way, I like it!

I enjoyed all of the characters coming together: Claire, Brevity, Claire’s cunning demon mentor, a lost teenage boy, and a book-character-turned-man named Hero. I really liked the different personalities and the banter, and the sense of adventure that came with the troupe searching different realms and afterlives for a dangerous artifact. All while being hunted by vengeful angels, too. I liked this, but at the same time, the characters themselves fell kind of flat for me. I enjoyed the adventure, but I didn’t really care one way or the other if they succeeded, if anyone died, if there were hardships presented, etc. It was interesting enough, but I wasn’t fully invested.

I also felt like the pacing was off in this story. It wasn’t a super long book by any means, but it felt very dragged out in places. The journey should have had excitement and urgency, but a lot of the time I felt it was slow and rather dull. I think this was also due to the fact that we switched character perspectives all the time and some of them were just not interesting at all. Honestly, I only really enjoyed Claire’s perspective. Despite the book feeling overly long and boring in a lot of spots, I still feel like we needed more worldbuilding. I know touching such grand and vastly established lore as heaven and hell is rather daunting. It’s hard to navigate and know how to present it. Should you stay true to the lore? Which lore? Should you try to bring something new to the table? It is difficult and muddy, I know. Supernatural made that clear. However, I still wish that there was more explanation and history behind the settings and the rules. I wanted to know more about the realms and the treaties between them, and how Lucifer ruled. More about souls and heave and the court of hell and the lost afterlives, etc. That would have been so interesting to me.

What I loved about the book was the concept, as I have said, and the idea that your words, potential or unfinished they may be, never die. Your stories live on and characters have the power to rise beyond their stories. I appreciated all of the nods to classic novels and authors. The librarian fight between Claire and the Viking librarian was one of the best scenes. Honestly, the whole Valhalla section was great. I love me some Vikings. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter were very good, too. I also really enjoyed how morally grey some of the characters were. I wish it had been explored even more and pushed even further. I think Claire and Hero especially should have been given more room to be antiheroes. They have the potential to be way more engaging and intriguing than they were here.

Overall, this was a solid 3.5 read for me and I am planning on picking up the sequel. Sidebar: how come I have never heard anyone talk about the sequel?? That does make me a tiny bit nervous about it! This had the potential to be a new favorite of mine, but unfortunately it did not quite live up to my expectations. It was an enjoyable read and very good, but a little lackluster as a whole.

How do you travel into a lost Egyptian afterlife and don’t even come across a single cat?

What did you guys think??

Thank you for reading!

Title: The Library of the Unwritten (Hell’s Library #1)
Author: A.J. Hackwith
Genre: Fantasy | Fiction | Adult | Books About Books |LGBTQ | Urban Fantasy | Paranormal | Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 1st, 2019
Page Count: 384 pages
Buy It: Wordery Book Depository

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