An odd woman who wears sweaters, with bicycle shorts and rain boots. A knife-wielding, tutu-wearing psycho who walks around with blood caked on his skin. A woman who can resurrect the dead. A woman who has died and been resurrected so many times, she's a few sandwiches short of a picnic. A seemingly normal man gets caught in the mix, and he even manages to befriend a lion along the way. All of them at the mercy of a mysterious Library.
Confused? I certainly was the first time I tried to read The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Early last year I tried to read this book, but I only made it to page 54.
The first time around nothing made sense. I couldn't understand the timeline. I couldn't understand the plot. At the time, I was trying to break out of my comfort zone. I wanted to read more fantasy books. I thought I made a mistake with this one. But...I was wrong.
I gave the book a second chance, and I was pleasantly surprised. I will admit I struggled to get through the first 50 pages, then the next 50 pages. After that the pacing picked up and the book finally started to make sense.
All of the odd characters made for a fascinating story. Carolyn, the odd woman in the bicycle shorts, truly marches to the beat of her own drum. She comes off as crazy, but Carolyn is actually very smart. She always has a plan. Plans that aren't always clear at the outset, but by the end of the book I realized Carolyn was the master of the long con. She gets everyone to do what she planned all along, including unsuspecting Steve, an ordinary ex-con turned plumber. She recruits him for a robbery. She's vague on the details. Tempted by the taste of money, a reluctant Steve goes along with Carolyn. When things go wrong, Steve is left alone to take the fall.
What was the point of all of this? What was Carolyn's endgame? It's almost too complicated to explain! The short version, Carolyn and her oddball siblings, including tutu-wearing David, are desperately searching for Father, the leader and patriarch of the Library. He's gone missing. Father's children, including Carolyn specialize in one category or catalog. Carolyn is a master of languages. David is a master at murder and mayhem. Jennifer can resurrect the dead, which is good because Margaret spends a lot of time with the dead. Together the contents of the Library have the power to
control the world. If Father isn't found soon, control of the Library could fall into
the wrong hands. Power like that is almost too hard to resist.
Carolyn, David, Jennifer, Margaret, and the other offspring of the Library are powerful people. They often interact and live with people in the "normal" world. But even with all their power, they're missing a sensitivity chip or at least an awareness of how weird their behavior is. They know nothing of personal hygiene and walk around smelling really bad. They don't realize their clothing or lack of clothing is strange. Steve almost can't take all of the oddball behavior, but soon it all makes sense to him. It makes so much sense, that Steve becomes dear friends with a lion named Naga.
None of this sounds like it should go together, but it does. I'm not even sure I'm doing this book justice. There's so much going on, it could take a full-page in the New York Times to explain it. Overall, this is a BIZARRE, but darkly funny book.
Note: I received a copy of the book as part of Penguin RandomHouse's Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.