The Library of the Dead, one of 2021’s new YA urban fantasy obsessions. Set in a near-future Edinburgh and inspired by Zimbabwean magic, it is slightly reminiscent of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series (who also provided a cover blurb) in its very broad strokes. It features mystery, an occult library and magic, all ingredients for a good story!
Many thanks to Jamie-Lee Nardone, Stephen Haskins and UK Tor for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 04/02/21
SUMMARY: Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – 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 . . .) as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets. And in the process, she discovers an occult library and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted? (from UK Tor)
OPINIONS: Now, the most important thing to note about The Library of the Dead is that it’s more on the YA side of things than the blurb lets on. Ropa is fourteen, something that I had to keep reminding myself throughout the course of the story, as her character felt older to me – if I hadn’t had the age on the page I would have placed her in her late teens to early twenties. But she is a wonderful main character. Jaded, fearless and immortal as only teenagers are. She is also smart, pragmatic and creative. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story from her perspective.
The Library of the Dead is full of interesting characters – aside from Ropa, I loved Priya, a wheel-chair bound young woman whom she meets in the eponymous library, Rob, the leader of a band of criminals, or Wilson, henchman supreme. There are layers to all of them, and the brand of urban fantasy found in The Library of the Dead is a far cry from the bland fare often associated with the genre. This series is a breath of fresh air combining Zimbabwean magic (a culture which I don’t think I’ve seen represented before) with a Scottish setting and a wonderful library.
I am looking forward to reading more of this series, and finding out how Ropa’s story continues after the mystery of The Library of the Dead is solved. My favourite part of this volume was the setting, so I am intrigued to find out more about the library and the knowledge contained therein, although Ropa, her grandmother, and their brand of ghost talking are just as interesting for future stories.