One of my favourite tropes is books about books. There is just something special about stories that share that love for the written word so openly, that carry their heart on their sleeve. And A.J. Hackwith’s Hell’s Library trilogy does this in so many different ways. Set in the Unwritten Wing – the part of Hell’s Library where books that were never finished are kept – Claire, the librarian, is an author herself, and Hero and Brevity, the two other main characters are a literal main character and a muse respectively. It is a special series, combining a love for books and storytelling with action-packed fantasy, and The God of Lost Words is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
Many thanks to Sarah Mather at Titan Books for sending me a review copy, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 08/02/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: To save the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, former librarian Claire and her allies may have to destroy it first.
Claire, rakish Hero, angel Rami, and muse-turned-librarian Brevity have accomplished the impossible by discovering the true nature of unwritten books. But now that the secret is out, in its quest for power Hell will be coming for every wing of the Library.
To protect the Unwritten Wing and stave off the insidious reach of Malphas, Hell’s most bloodthirsty general, Claire and her friends will have to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice to keep their vulnerable corner of the afterlife. Succeeding would mean rewriting the nature of the Library, but losing would mean obliteration. Their only chance at survival lies in outwitting Hell and writing a new chapter for the Library. Luckily, Claire and her friends know how the right story, told well, can start a revolution. (from Titan Books)
OPINIONS: I’ve been burned a few times with sequels recently. But this one is a heck of a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I’m hard-pressed to choose a favourite of the three, to be entirely honest. The first sets up the characters and world, the second introduces a more expansive setting (including a very skaldic Valhalla!) and this third volume has the entire ecosystem break down and having to be re-built. The God of Lost Words is as immersive and addictive as the first two books in the series – just with even higher stakes. If you have liked the series so far, this is a must read, and if you’re new to the series this should be incentive enough to pick it up and binge all three.
I think what draws me so much to these books is that the characters, for the most part, are those who love stories as much as I do. And that makes connecting with them that much easier. But this isn’t just about that. This is a book about what it means to care about your home and the people in it, wherever that may be. About a willingness to sacrifice everything for those you hold dear. Unexpected bravery, found through research and logic, but attained through emotion. And that is what I love about these books. They are set in Hell, in what is proverbially the worst place in the universe, but they are about personal connection, about human relationships (even if most characters aren’t technically humans) and about finding out who you are inside and what your passions are. The series is at times pulpy, often fast-paced, but always full of compassion and heart.
Writing about this last book in the series has made me want to do a binge-reread of the whole trilogy, so I hope I have been able to bring across some of my love for these books. They are some of my favourite library-set stories, incorporating mythology from a variety of cultures and focusing on their characters and bringing them to (after)life. Add The God of Lost Words to your Goodreads here, or order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).