The Library at Mount Char – Scott Hawkins

About the Book

Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy. 

Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

388 pages (paperback)
Published on June 16, 2015
Published by Crown Publishing
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

The Library at Mount Char was one of the most unexpected wonders I’ve read this year. This book refuses to be summarized or categorized. It’s part horror, part dark contemporary, part fantasy, part… whatever and completely a surprise.

It took some time for me to really get into the book. The first few chapters are a bit slippery, mostly because this book is so completely different that it takes some time to really sink into it. However, despite that, it never was really off-putting. This is one of those books that will suck you in and pull you under without you even really realizing that it’s happening. By the time you realize that you don’t know what the hell is going on, you’ll be in too deep to care.

The book starts with the weirdest family ever trying to figure out what happened to their enigmatic Father. Slowly things go from there. Hawkins unravels quite a mystery, not just regarding Father and what happened to him, but also regarding the world itself, and the characters that end up being the focus point of the book. In fact, the entire book is a mystery in various forms, and most of the answers to the riddles that the author poses readers are unexpected and rather thought provoking.

The Library at Mount Char has three major perspectives, each with varying degrees of independence. Carolyn is the most mysterious character. It’s hard to really get a grip on who she is and what game she’s playing. At first she seems just like everyone else in her family who is worried about Father. Slowly it becomes obvious that she’s a deep thinker who is adept at playing her own game and fooling everyone around her.

Steve is a sort of glorified puppet. He’s a piece in Carolyn’s game, and it takes him a while to gain some independence. He tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, and is rather admirable and relatable which is necessary in a book that is this incredibly different. Steve brings some real world to the readers, and keeps the story human when it easily might transcend to something else entirely.

Erwin is an ex-military hero who is tough as nails, and absolutely hardcore. He also brings quite a bit of humor to the story, as he has a takes-no-shit attitude and tends to act dumb when he really isn’t. He’s always about three steps ahead of everyone else, and outthinks those around him without even trying. He doesn’t take as center-stage a role as Steve, but when he does appear he steals the spotlight and had a tendency to make me laugh even when I was wonder how exactly he fit into the story.

There is some really weird stuff in The Library at Mount Char. Really weird. Yet somehow Hawkins managed to keep it all from feeling over-the-top or glorified. Within the context of the story being told, it would seem out of place if these really weird elements weren’t in the story. Furthermore, they are really well done. There is a background and basis for just about everything, and while it might not make complete sense in the moment, it all becomes clear eventually.

That’s the strong point of the novel, and probably what I liked about it the most. I didn’t understand where it was going, or what the hell was going on most of the time, but there were some big ideas being played with. The mystery was unfolding and I didn’t give a damn that I didn’t understand most of it while it was happening because the journey was the most delightful part.

There were a ton of “Ah-ha” moments. The ending was basically 100 pages of “Ah ha!” It all fell together gracefully, and left me with a lot to think about, not the least of which was how Scott Hawkins managed to write a book that was so amazingly… amazing.

The Library at Mount Char was something else. It was completely unexpected, and absolutely shocking. This breaks all molds, and does so in glorious fashion. Part horror, part contemporary fantasy, completely weird, and absolutely unforgettable, this is a book you should read.


5/5 stars


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.