June 24, 2015
The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins
Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. After all, she was a normal American herself once. That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father. In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God. Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation. As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own. But Carolyn has accounted for this. And Carolyn has a plan. The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.
The Library at Mount Char is a bizarre read. At times dark, others humorous, but at all times the narrative moves forward, compelling the reader to read *just one more chapter.* During the read of this book, I was often left confused by what the heck was going on. Most of the confusing bits were cleared up by the end, and of course a very amusing epilogue. I suppose I would categorize this story as horror or perhaps urban fantasy, but a genre or two can’t easily define it.
While reading, I was confronted by the similar tone and feel of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Although Gaiman focused on a clash between several gods, The Library at Mount Char takes a serendipitous route to tell a story that… well… no spoilers, you’ll just have to read it. If you liked American Gods, you’ll likely appreciate this book.
There is quite a bit of violence, including rape in this story, but the type and nature of the violence is nothing more than one would see watching programs that don’t air on network TV. The violence is sometimes cringe-worthy, but it never felt gratuitous, and seemed to move the story forward.
My understanding is that there are no plans on a sequel, but the story ends in such a way that if the author did decide to write another, the groundwork is already there. This book seems more than four stars, but not quite enough to push it into the five-star territory.
Scott Hawkins lives in Atlanta with his wife and a large pack of foster dogs. When not writing he enjoys woodwork, cooking long and impractical recipes, and playing fetch with his dogs. He works as a computer programmer. The Library at Mount Char is his first novel.