The Library of the Unwritten – AJ Hackwith

Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organizing books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.

When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.

I’m a sucker for a good library book. Or a good book about libraries. And this one is rather good.

In short, there’s a library in Hell, looked after by Claire, the Head Librarian. Her job is look after all the unwritten books. Shouldn’t really be that taxing. Should it?

Except that some of the characters tend to escape from time to time, and it’s Claire’s job, along with her apprentice Brevity (ex-Muse) to keep things in order. And they’re in the underworld, so nothing is ever straightforward.

Then just as they’re chasing a hero (who decides he quite likes being called Hero), a junior demon turns up and is promptly dragged back to Earth to go hunting for Hero and his book.

Oh, and there’s a fallen angel on the hunt for a book which shouldn’t exist.

What glorious fun they have! Hackwith takes the premise and just runs with it, having an absolutely splendid time along the way. The worldbuilding is marvellous, the action sharply written, and the plot fits together as neatly as an expertly shelved set of books. On a bookshelf. In Hell.

I love Claire so very very much.

The mundane tools of a librarian’s trade included notebooks and writing implements, and the less usual; inks that glimmered, stamps that bit, wriggling wax, and twine. All of them went into a bag that Claire slung across her chest. Pen and paper went into the hidden pockets of her muddled, many-tiered skirts. She’d been buried in some frippery that was dour even for her time, all buttons and layers. She’d chopped the skirt at the knee long ago for easy movement, but Claire lived by the firm moral philosophy that one could never have too many pockets, too many books, or too much tea.

Hackwith’s style is hugely enjoyable- echoes of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next adventures spring to mind here, and if you liked those, then I’m sure you’ll love this.

But this is very much its own adventure, and I highly recommend you dive in.

I was also delighted to discover there’s a sequel coming out later this year. Can’t wait to see what Claire and the gang get up to next.

The Library of the Unwritten, by A.J. Hackwith is published by Titan Books and is out now. Many thanks to Lydia Gittins at Titan Books for the review copy.

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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