All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
Well, let me apologize in advance because this review is going to be all over this place. This book, as the kids say (actually I’m sure no one says this anymore and I’m just showing my age), hit me right in the feels. Let the incoherent rambling begin! (Reader: it’s already begun.)
I LOVED THIS BOOK. Honestly, I had no expectations going into this other than, hmm, this sounds like something right up my alley, and maybe that was the best way to experience it. It’s always great when a book isn’t hampered by your own expectations of it. Then again, who knows? Maybe even if I’d been super excited for this one, anticipating it for months, I still would have loved it. You only get the chance to read a book for the first time once (unless you fall into some kind of soap opera world portal and develop the amnesia trope) so we’ll never find out.
Why did I love this book so much? I think for this one it mostly comes down to the characters. The characters and their relationships with each other were just so much fun. I loved the way everyone played off of each other. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book where I wanted to put on my rabid fangirl hat and yell I SHIP IT, I SHIP IT SO MUCH *crying emojis everywhere* but this one did it for me. Thank you, book, thank you very much.
So, characters. Elisabeth is an apprentice librarian, so immediately I’m going to love her because she loves books. Even the very scary books they take care of in these libraries, grimoires which team with life, trying to escape their confines and sometimes chomping off a finger or two of the not so careful librarian or assistant. I love Elisabeth’s passion for her job. Her curiosity serves to get her caught up in things that might be beyond her except that she’s also pretty good about thinking on her feet which gets her out of a lot of scrapes. I think the thing I loved most about her is her heart, and how she cares for those around her. Nathaniel was just a lot of fun. He’s comes off as completely arrogant, but in a playful manner most of the time. But he also has this vulnerable side that he doesn’t let many people see. Honestly he’s one of my favorite types of characters so I couldn’t help but love him. Speaking of favorite types of characters: Silas. SILAS!!!! Aaaah, Silas, why do I love you so much? Is Silas, a certified centuries old demon, a monster or does he have a heart? I think that’s something you have to figure out for yourself as a reader (but I know which way I lean).
So, on to other things. I did enjoy the world building quite a lot here. The idea of the libraries and grimoires is really cool. I love books that are, kind of, alive. There’s also a bit of fantasy of manners feel to certain parts of the book–once we get out of the library and move on to other locations Elisabeth has to interact with greater society you see it’s something akin to Victorian times and social graces. I’m a fan of that stuff so I was on board with it here. Nothing like a good set down during a dinner party or a ball or some such.
There’s a mystery element to the book as well, as Elisabeth and Nathaniel work together to try and figure out who is really responsible for everything and then what their ultimate goal is. There’s a lovely bit of back and forth between the protagonists and the antagonist here, where each of them thinks at one time or another that they have the upper hand, and you never really know who has all their ducks in a row because, surprise! There are some great little twists and turns in the second half of the book, and some really great moments of tension. The pacing of this is good, but it doesn’t become great until the latter half when things really pick up and things just keep snowballing from there. There are a few things that really shocked me when they happened, which is always a fun experience (even when I want to scream ‘noooo’ for ever).
One particular incident inspired this twitter reaction thread (no spoilers):
In conclusion. I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was exactly my type of book, where the elements I love came together to make something great. I’ll definitely be checking out Margaret Rogerson’s other work. What a ride. 5/5 stars.