You know those books that just attract your nostalgia? That was me reading The Library of the Dead. I have been searching for books that transport me back to Scotland forever. And even though the setting of The Library of the Dead is some sort of alternate future Scotland, I had so fun reading! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
While The Library of the Dead is not at all what I expected, I ended up enjoying the setting immensely. I was expecting a story about a magical library and while this isn’t a lie, it isn’t as prominent as I expected. The Library of the Dead is, what I can just try to describe, a supernatural slice of life meets action. Ropa is trying to unravel the mystery of the missing children, but she also has to take on cases and jobs to make money. I appreciated that The Library of the Dead explores the material conditions Ropa is bound to throughout the book.
How Ropa might want to try to help the missing kids, but that she also wants to be able to take care of her grandma. She doesn’t want to be homeless and so she cannot pay any library fines. This was one of my favorite element because it not only made me understand Ropa more, but also see the world more clearly. It’s a world where she cannot walk in some neighborhoods because she’ll have to bribe the police. Where people and ghosts rely on her surface, but she also faced eviction.
The setting of The Library of the Dead is very much like ours, except with the addition of ghosts and some sort of cataclysmic event. There are class issues throughout which lends the book a sense of realism amidst the ghost hunting. While there were elements I really liked about The Library of the Dead, like the jobs Ropa goes on, I had some issues with pacing. There were times when I felt like I could easily put it down, measured with times I wanted to read to the next chapter. Not to mention that I felt that some elements of the ending were wrapped up almost too hastily and also left me with a few questions.
If you enjoy the concept of the story and don’t mind a few meandering turns, then you might enjoy The Library of the Dead. It has some great series potential in the ways that some other series have these larger plot conflicts, but are grounded in cases – I think of the Lady Sherlock series or The Invisible Library series. Find The Library of the Dead on Goodreads, Amazon (UK), Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.