This was an effed up book.
So I’m having a hard time describing The Library at Mount Char because a) it’s really weird and difficult to explain; b) the plot is not really what it seems; and c) Hawkins throws you into the book’s mythology without much exposition–you learn as you go. But if you’re into dark fantasy, like Neil Gaiman or other similar authors, like mythology, can tolerate copious amounts of violence, you’ll probably like this book.
After you adjust to some of the whiplash (and violence. hoo boy, there’s violence), the plot starts to simmer together: Father, a god of some sorts, has gone missing, and his children need to find him. His children are referred to as “librarians” as they are the gatekeepers of their assigned area of expertise. Carolyn, the female lead, is the “librarian” of linguistics. David, her adopted brother, is the “librarian” of war (and really likes tutus). Jennifer, her adopted sister with a weed proclivity, is the “librarian” of medicine, and so forth. There’s a bunch of other librarians, but the only other ones you need to remember are Michael (animals) and Margaret (…. I can’t remember. Grr.)
So Carolyn enlists the help of Steve, your average every-day American with a few theft felonies behind him. What he exactly is helping with was confusing at first, because she frames him and gets him in jail. Uhhh… ok? Steve is a very easy character to take pity on, as Carolyn really throws him through the ringer with relentlessly vicious dogs. Other prominent players are Erwin, a badass retired military man, and 2 lions, Dresden and Naga. Not gonna lie, the lions were my favorite characters.
The violence was the hardest for me to stomach. A friend recently rated this book on Goodreads and after I commented that it was a weird book, she wrote back agreeing with an additional note that “the brutality was not really earned.” Which frankly, I agree with–the reader is thrown headfirst into a very complex and two-faced plot, and at times, the violence is just so gratuitous. There is a very pivotal violent scene involving Carolyn and David that could have born more emotional weight had we, the readers, not been slammed with violence and gore throughout all of the preceding chapters. David is an extremely violent character–he’s the “librarian” of war, after all–and cutting down on the violence outside of David’s activities would have given him much more weight. There’s also the factor that David apparently likes to wear tutus, so any comment about David, whether it’s by a bit character observing him or one of the mains, always goes back to “horrible violence! mind-boggling horror! oh, hey, he’s wearing a tutu.” By the fourth or fifth tutu reference, I was bored of it. Once, twice maybe, is enough.
Violence aside, once the plot unfolds into what it really is, The Library at Mount Char is an interesting story. When I first started this book, I didn’t think Carolyn and Steve would hurt my heart as much as they did. But they did. Even though Carolyn is a super frustrating character and you just want to shake her and scream “TELL ME YOUR MOTIVATIONS ALREADY!”