When I first heard about The Library of the Unwritten back in January, I was so excited to get my hands on it. A novel about the library in Hell!? I honestly could not imagine anything better. Imagine my delight then, when Titan Books offered me a copy to review the very next day. Whilst I’m obviously grateful for the opportunity, this did not affect the content of my review.
Plot summary for The Library of the Unwritten:
Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organizing books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.
When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.
Star Rating for The Library of the Unwritten: * * * (three stars)
The Library of the Unwritten has such an amazing concept. There is a literal library down in Hell, which cares for all those unwritten books of potential authors, living and deceased. Characters occasionally pop into existence and need to be chivvied back into their books, or others escape into our world and have to be tracked down. The plot takes Claire and the others through various other afterlife worlds – Valhalla is especially interesting, but also a realm where your soul is weighed by the scales inside a giant crocodile. The ingenuity and creativity required is wonderful and I just cannot get around what a great idea this is…
…but I feel like it could potentially have been better executed. Whilst the world building is great and I could happily spend all day learning about the Library of the Unwritten, the story itself just felt slightly flat. The pacing is fine and the plot is interesting enough, but there was no spark there, no oomph. The writing isn’t clunky or stilted, but there was nothing in this book that made me particularly want to pick it up again after I’d put it down.
The characters are also not overly engaging. Claire, the main character, is outright irritating. You know when a characters (especially female ones) are intended to be strong and independent, but they overshoot the mark and they just seem cross at everybody all the time? That. I can clearly see the attempt at character development, which I appreciated, but she irritated me for a large portion of the book. The other characters are more interesting – I liked Brevity, the enthusiastic ex-Muse apprentice librarian.
In short, I liked The Library of the Unwritten well enough. I don’t regret the time I spent reading it, it’s just lacking that extra bit of sparkle. I’ll be interested to see where the next book, The Archive of the Forgotten (due out October 2020) takes us, as it may be that, without the need to set up the context and background, the story really gets going.