The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite the enormous amount of violence and death in this novel, I actually found it quite delightful! That’s thanks to of Hawkins’ breezy prose and sense of humor throughout, as well as his ability to write interesting, well drawn characters. There’s a lot of bold and original creativity on display here, and a truly fascinating magical system. I was ready to give this book five stars, but found it stumbled toward the end with clumsy expository dialogue, frequent mentions of antagonists who never show up (wherefore art thou, Billy O’Shea?), and the redemption of a character who has, for 300 pages, been irredeemable to the reader for his stunningly heartless brutality toward the children. He is presented in the end as having a good reason for his sadistic cruelty, but that reason is never fully explored or made comprehensible to the reader, and thus it all comes off as needless. There’s some stuff with the president that’s just silly, and Hawkins makes the mistake of introducing us to several of Carolyn’s fellow librarians, all of whom are interesting in their own way, and then completely removing them from the story off-page so that we neither get to experience their absence ourselves nor feel Carolyn’s emotions about their absence, which leaves us not feeling anything about it either.

It may sound like I’m complaining a lot about this novel, but that’s only because I loved it for so much of its page count and found the ending disappointing. I still highly recommend the novel — there’s a reason I’m giving it four out of five stars, after all — and I think a lot of readers will find it as delightful and wonderfully original as I did. But I can’t help feeling that something went wrong at the end, whether it was too much editorial interference or Hawkins simply losing confidence in what he was trying to accomplish. Perhaps if I were to take one of the books from Father’s library I might discover an alternate past where THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR had the satisfying ending that such an amazing novel deserves.

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