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Review: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

By / May 11, 2014 / no comments

Django Wexler made a name for himself with The Thousand Names. It was one of the best reads of 2013 from not just us but other fantasy readers around the net.

The Forbidden Library is his first attempt at YA. According to the back, Wexler is trying to create a classic in the mould of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.

Funny enough, the main protagonist is called Alice.  While sneaking around after bed time, she stumbles upon a meeting her father is having with a fairy. Yet, this fairy is more like a fat flying bumble bee. The day after, her father goes on a trip and then suddenly disappears. He is declared dead and Alice gets taken in by her estranged uncle Geryon. Her uncle lives in a mansion called The Library which is full of cats.

While in The Library, Alice does mundane jobs for her uncle. She has a sneaking suspicion that the cats are watching her, even laughing at her. One day, a black cat starts talking to her! He leads her through the library and soon enough Alice is lost, it’s as if the library was shifting and creating new pathways as they were walking. By accident, Alice picks up a book and suddenly along with the black cat, is sucked inside the book.

While reading The Forbidden Library I thought it was so cliche and overdone. What is with these authors just rehashing the idea of alternate world/universes through a “portal”. The movie world has delved back in time to bring books such as Narnia, Northern Lights, Bridge to Terabithia et al. and it seems to me that this is the only way authors can think of to get children enticed into fantasy! Granted, it works and why wouldn’t you try something that works?

The worst thing was it seemed like a rehash of my favourite kids book Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Young girl, black cat that can talk, alternative universe. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I started to change my mind. One of the differences is the magic in this book. Those who can be “sucked” into books are called Readers and they have the ability to understand magical books and bind creatures inside these books to themselves (known as prison books). This grants them their powers. To do so however, they have to defeat the prisoner inside.

The way Wexler incoporates the powers is really well done. At no time is the magic too powerful and the characters in the book find clever ways at solving their problems. My main dislike is when authors use magic as brute strength to overcome their difficulties, so great job Wexler.

While the whole story line and magic system was interesting, I never felt anything towards the characters. No love, no hate, just luke warm feelings. Most books also build up towards something, like a crescendo in a musical piece. I thought Wexler had got to that point, but it ends after 10 pages or so. He definitely is leading you towards the sequel but I thought he could have dragged it out a little more and build up some suspense. However, I am intrigued enough that I would pick up the next book.

 

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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