Title: The Forbidden Library
Author: Django Wexler
Alice had a happy life with her father before the fairy invaded their kitchen. Suddenly her rational, understandable life has a new dimension, and she can’t be sure of anything anymore. Because if fairies are real, what else might be out there?
Quite a bit, it turns out. After she’s sent to live with her “uncle” Geryron, she stumbles across her own power: the ability to harness magic in books. To Read herself into books. And to capture what she finds there for her own purposes . . .
I was a little surprised after reading the inside cover to find out this is actually a historical fantasy, taking place in America shortly after the invention of electric lights. The period details are solid, though Alice spends little enough time in the outside world, heading almost immediately to Geryon’s house and its Forbidden Library.
The magic itself is fascinating. The core of it appears to be those passages in books that “jump out” to Readers, and such power is collected and refined to various uses. But the main thrust of the magic Alice actually learns comes with substantial moral dilemma: she can enter a prison-book, kill its inhabitant, and thereafter gain its occupant as a servant with the option to use its abilities as her own powers. Alice, having been raised by a kind father and possessing more heart than the typical Reader, is appalled at such a process, but for one reason or another ends up with a few servants of her own.
Which leads to my favorite part: the Swarm. These little kiwi-like birds are cute, deadly, and provide Alice with a range of interesting abilities. And regardless of her feelings about the whole “enslaving creatures to be my servants”, she’s going to need every advantage to simply get through this adventure alive.
The book is clearly setting up for a series, as Alice is only part of the way to her goal of figuring out what happened to her father by the end. I suspect Geryon will also get additional time, which he rather badly needs, as Alice is constantly being told negative things about him from others, but her few personal interactions with the man haven’t been much in line with what everyone says.
Overall this is an interesting read, with a horror-fantasy dimension and a lot of unexpected twists and turns. I rate this book Recommended.