I needed a mental break. I just finished Sarah J. Maas’s latest book, A Court of Silver Flames, and there was a lot to process after going through the main character’s healing journey. How lucky was I to pick up The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu next? I couldn’t have planned this reading order better if I tried. Talk about a book that sucks you in. Every time I read, it felt like I disappeared entirely into the world Huchu created, and ended up with a chunk of easily read pages to show for it. The pacing is quick, it features a delightful and unusual main character, and the mystery is…mysterious. Add some magic and paranormal happenings for flair and I was happy to take on this story.
Ropa can see the dead, but it’s all part of the job. As a ghostalker, she collects payment to deliver messages between the dead and their living loved ones. At only 14 years old, Ropa trudges through the streets of Edinburgh to earn a meager living to support her grandmother and younger sister. One day a particularly desperate ghost begs for help to find her son, and Ropa discovers there is something weird happening to children in the city. The investigation leads the young ghostalker to a mysterious library filled with interesting people, books, and of course, magic. Having not been able to access her own family’s magic, Ropa leans on this new resource to find her own power and discover what evil forces are brewing at night.
Huchu sets up Ropa’s world so easily as we move through her day-to-day life. I learned about her role as a ghostalker, complicated family situation, the Library of the Dead, and the bad spooky happenings without so much as blinking an eye. I credit this to Huchu’s inclusive writing style. He doesn’t withhold information or treat you like an outsider. Instead, Huchu acts like you’ve been a part of Ropa’s story from the beginning and simply drops pieces of information that ring so true it’s like you’ve known about them all along.
Ropa is a fascinating character. She’s tough as hell and there’s nothing that can get in her way, which is really fun when weird, spooky stuff is happening. I admire her determination and the sacrifices she makes to provide for her family. Ropa carries the entire world on her shoulders but it doesn’t define her. There were so many moments I forgot Ropa was only 14 years old. I’d get so caught up in how well she handles her responsibilities that it was jarring when she responded with an immature comment. Ropa’s “can’t be bothered” attitude and deadpan reactions to utter paranormal chaos is an absolute treat. And the confidence with which she uses a slingshot to take down terrifying enemies is too much.
My biggest complaint is that I don’t have a complete understanding of the world or magic system. Ropa discovers The Library of the Dead, which only admits people with special abilities to its magical archives. The majority of its inhabitants seem grumpy and there’s very little explanation as to what magic is, how it’s harnessed, and what powers can manifest. I did get the impression there’s a lot of important books from smart people who theorized and shared their findings on magic in this place. But honestly, it’s shocking the first book is even titled after the library because it plays such a small part in Ropa’s story.
The Library of the Dead’s quick pacing doesn’t let you snag on the details in Ropa’s complicated world. Ropa seriously doesn’t slow down for anyone, so I had one choice – keep up or get left behind. I decided to join the adventure and was thoroughly entertained. This is the perfect book to pull you out of a slump and get you energized for that next big series you’ve been putting off.
The Library of the Dead – Rating: 7.5/10