The Library of the Dead (Edinburgh Nights #1) by TL Huchu

My Five Word TL:DR Review.  Mixed Feelings, positive and negative

TheLibraryThe Library of the Dead – I want to hug you and slap you.  In some respects I think this is just great, in other respects, I have questions and issues.  Let’s look at the plot first.

So, this feels like a near future urban fantasy.  There has been an event known as the ‘Catastrophe’ but I can’t really speak with confidence about what this really involved.  Based in Edinburgh we follow a character called Ropa.  A young woman who, well, ‘sees dead people’.  She also talks to them and relays messages to their living relatives or loved ones, providing her fee is met.  Ropa is stalked by ‘others’.  They’re all on her case to pass on messages, the dead are just as bad as the living sometimes in that they’re trying to pull a fast one so Ropa has learned to harden her shell a little.  However, when she is repeatedly approached by a spirit worried about her son’s disappearance, payment or not, she is eventually cajoled into delving deeper, at which point it appears that more children are disappearing mysteriously, sometimes returning, but never without terrible outcomes.

Okay, firstly the good.  The writing is excellent. It took me a little time to get into the dialect but I loved it regardless.  I loved being in the City of Edinburgh.  I confess this is a city that I would love to visit and so spending time here through the pages of a book is most welcome.  I liked Ropa.  This is a character that I can definitely develop an attachment to, she is basically responsible, unselfish and tough.  She’s not some sort of badass character but she has learnt her lessons on the streets from an early age and she is tough enough.

The likable.  I liked the magic.  The supporting cast of characters. I loved Ropa’s background and her grandmom’s magical teachings.  I really enjoyed that she speaks to spirits by using a musical instrument.  I liked the juxtaposition of two different magic strategies.  An almost earth style magic practiced by Ropa which feels very natural and elemental compared to a very book learned magic taught at the library that does feel a little more rigid – although both work.  I liked the supporting cast of characters. Priya and Jomo are definitely characters that I can see myself liking.  I also love the way this story is just so easily inclusive, this is definitely the sort of writing and plotting that I can get behind because it’s effortless and natural – or at least that’s the way it appeared to me.

The perplexing.  Not sure what the ‘catastrophe’ is.  This book is earning the monica of ‘dystopian’ but it doesn’t feel like that to me to be honest. Yes, this is a city of extremes.  Some people living in abject poverty, gang crime being prevalent.  Perhaps the event mentioned is what led to the magic and spirits, not to mention different ‘planes’ being released upon the population.  Also, this has a YA theme to it in some respects.  Ropa is a young teenager with a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. Look, some people have a tough call in life so I can get on board with Ropa being only 14 or so, but at the same time it does take a little getting used to – well in that in my head I was reading her as a slightly older character.

The grim.  The theme here is a bit grim without doubt.  In fact I can’t deny that I found it shocking in parts.  This is centred around young children being stolen away for quite horrible purposes.  It is shocking without doubt.  In the same respect – the ‘Milkman’ – I think this author may have come up with a truly hideous antagonist to give most a run for their money and it makes me want to read more to see what happens next.

The criticisms.  Well, firstly, I just have to mention the use of Library of the Dead for the title.  I can’t deny that this gave me a completely different expectation than was actually the reality.  Okay, I’m going to address the elephant in the room.  There seems to be a trend of chucking the word ‘library’ into a title because it will appeal to bibliophiles, and it does.  It really does.  Put ‘library’ into the title and you pretty much have my attention.  At the same time though – I want that library to deliver on the promise  The library here, as interesting as it is – is not where the dead are rushing around and in fact this is much more a city wide investigation.  This is a library of magic and the occult, and there are things to be learnt here (duh, library) but it’s not where the majority of the story takes place and it is definitely not where the dead make their appearances (although this does have a ‘safe place’ type of feel which I do appreciate and understand).  Secondly, I think that some of the themes here are quite adult, and yet at the same time this has a YA feel.  Personally speaking, I don’t think this is YA – at the same time it gives me pause for thought about why have a 14 year old pov character.  I can only deduce that we’re going to grow into this story and character as the series progresses.

On the whole.  I think this had a slightly slow start, but was interesting and snappy enough in other ways to keep my attention.  Plus, I always give new series a little leeway as they have to deliver a certain amount of information whilst remaining entertaining.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I would rate this 7 out of 10 or 3.5 of 5 and this would be on the higher side so in terms of Goodreads this would work out at 4 of 5.