Book Review : The Library of the Dead

Book Review : The Library of the DeadThe Library of the Dead: Edinburgh Nights Book 1 by T. L. Huchu
Published by Pan Macmillan on February 4th 2021
Pages: 400
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When ghosts talk, she will listen . . . Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghost talker - and she now 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 honour-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. Opening up a world of magic and adventure, The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu is the first book in the Edinburgh Nights series.


I picked up The Library of the Dead, because I received an ARC for its sequel Our Lady Of Mysterious Ailments, without knowing it was part of a series.  So, of course I had to read the first book in Edinburgh Nights before cracking open the second. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Library of the Dead and its sassy, street-smart female protagonist, Ropa. I found the novel, with its unique magic system and interesting mystery very hard to put down, and in what felt like the blink of an eye, finished The Library of the Dead. 


The novel follows teenaged—”almost fifteen”–Ropa as she supports her grandmother and younger sister by “ghost talking” or carrying messages from the dead to the living. Ropa uses music to tune into the ghosts’ frequencies, something I found really interesting. Likewise, there’s many different realms for the ghosts to inhabit, such as the everyThere and another realm from which there’s no return. Simultaneously, Ropa lives in the slums of Edinburgh, which isn’t really described much, but boy is there a lot of Scottish slang that I had no hope of understanding.


“This Library was built as the repository of all of Scotland’s magical know-how. Many librarians and magicians have passed through these halls, and every one of them earned their place here.”


Likewise, the eponymous Library of the Dead has very little page time in this novel. I was expecting it to play a major role and was pretty pumped at the idea of a secret library filled with magical and dangerous knowledge, but it’s relegated to the background. Though I was initially disappointed by this, I found I didn’t miss it much, as I just loved Ropa so much.


“‘Little girl with green hair, we meet again,’ says a familiar voice. ‘I knew from the first time I saw you that there was something special there, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.'”


The author does a phenomenal job of making all of his characters feel authentic. Ropa’s grandmother is the wise woman who knows when and when not to push her granddaughter, Ropa’s little sister is a pistol who is clearly going to be just as much as a force to be reckoned with as her older sister, and Ropa’s new friend Priya is an adrenaline junkie who doesn’t let being wheelchair bound get in her way at all, and in fact even has a seatbelt on her wheelchair so she can ride on the ceiling. There is a lot of diversity among the cast and all of their relationships feel relatable, realistic, and organic. Ropa may be a little too fast on her feet and capable for someone so young, but I can forgive a little suspension of disbelief as I loved this wise-cracking, green-haired, assertive young woman with a heart of gold and an eye for trouble.


The only thing I really didn’t care for in The Library of the Dead was the information dumps about using magic. Ropa is a self taught magic user, so she loves to quote from the magical texts she’s reading. To me, these passages read like massive information dumps that weren’t even close to being in layman’s terms, and I usually went back to reread these paragraphs, as I found myself losing focus and skimming while reading the first time. That being said, all of the magical creatures and systems, when not quoted from an imaginary textbook Ropa is perusing, are so unique that I can let these long-winded information dumps slide.


“They say he just turned up at their doorstep one evening and he was in rough shape, like he’d had the life drained out of him. Never seen anything like it.”


Plus, I was so interested in the mystery Ropa was trying to solve, one involving someone kidnapping children and leaving them as husks, devoid of their vitality, that I wasn’t bothered by these other details. The villains Ropa encounters on her quest to save the children of Edinburgh are perfectly vile and compelling, as is how Ropa deals with them. Beneath all of this magic, the author manages to weave wisdom about the meaning of life and death, what’s right and wrong, and the importance of kindness too, which is in itself, its own kind of magic. 


If you love urban fantasy, unique magical systems, smart and resourceful heroines, and aren’t put off by a little slang, then look no further than The Library of the Dead. I am immediately picking up the next entry of the series myself, as the novel really left me wanting more of Ropa and her adventures.


Book Review : The Library of the Dead - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 29, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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