The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (Advanced Reader Copy AND Galley)
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Genre: Fiction, horror, fantasy, dark fantasy, dark humor, every genre and no genre
Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Summary: When their parents died in a targeted attack, Carolyn and eleven other children were taken in by the mysterious and all-powerful man they now call Father, the ruler of the fourth age and the keeper of the Library. He raised them how he was raised, teaching them the art of war, languages and even resurrection. But now Father is missing and Carolyn and the others must go out into America to find him and bring him back home.
Carolyn hasn’t always lived in the Library, but after her parents were murdered she and eleven other neighborhood children were taken in by a strange man. They move into the Library and immediately begin their studies, with each children learning a specific catalog under the watchful eye of Father, a man who can talk to stones, resurrect the dead, read minds and do pretty much anything imaginable.
Studying outside your catalog is expressly forbidden, so Carolyn is stuck learning languages (all of them), including but definitely not limited to Japanese, deer and low dragon.
Meanwhile, her brothers and sisters learn other catalogs. Kind-hearted Michael is the ambassador to beasts and lives among the animals, healer Jennifer loves herbs and as a master of her catalog can resurrect the dead.
The Sid and Nancy of The Library at Mount Char — David and Margaret — are the most damaged of the children. David (who was essentially broken by Father) is a mindless killing machine thanks to his catalog murder and war, while Margaret, who was repeatedly killed and resurrected so she could enter the afterlife is not much better off.
There’s also Peter (whose catalog is mathematics), Lisa (who appears to be able to do some sort of mind control) and Emily (who can enter dreams). And while Alicia can visit the far future and see permutations of the future, Rachel sees the actual future as well as potential futures. You know, because time is a flat circle. Unfortunately for Rachel, in order to do this she must give birth to and then murder her own children.
As they grow up, the children become so accustomed to the Library (a place where time flows differently) that they now identify as and speak Pelapi and no longer consider themselves Americans.
The story begins after Father goes missing and the librarians start to search for him, although there are a decent amount of interludes from Carolyn to fill in the gaps that got our cast of characters to this point.
Because how else would we learn about peripheral creatures like Barry O’Shea (“the one with the tentacles”) and Q-33 North (“the sort of iceberg with legs”)?
The Library at Mount Char is a lot of things. It’s weird. It’s funny. It’s weirdly funny. It’s thought-provoking and confusing. It’s horrifying and fantastical. It’s like if a dark fantasy and a dark comedy had a baby.
Not all of it makes sense and it’s probably not meant to. Still, Hawkins manages to create a fully realized world hidden in plain sight, complete with a neighborhood populated by the soulless shells of the resurrected, “talking” animals, wannabe Buddhist robbers, a murderer in a tutu, death, destruction and some timey wimey stuff.
- Exceptional world-building
- Fully fleshed out characters
- Darkly comedic
- Just plain weird
- The weird can border on the confusing