It’s very rare for urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy (or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days) to catch my attention. No offense to the many fantasy authors out there, but I’ve always preferred space-ships over wizards. However, when The Library of the Unwritten was called out as a new release at DragonCon 2019 panel hosted by Penguin Publishing, I was intrigued. (Fun fact: At that same panel, I won a book with a dragon on the cover that I promptly gifted to a colleague that liked that sort of thing. Yes, I see the irony.)
I think it was the elevator pitch for Library of the Unwritten that appealed to me: “Characters from unwritten books come to life; hijinks ensue.“
As an author, I imagined my own unwritten characters on the loose in the “real world”. (The idea is entertaining and horrifying– like watching a fight break out in a hockey game.)
Here’s the skinny: Unfinished books are kept in a neutral section of hell called the Library of the Unwritten which is overseen by a Librarian. If a character escapes their book, it’s up to the Librarian to hunt them down and get them back to their books.
Hackwith’s story follows Head Librarian Claire, and her assistant Brevity as they are joined by a teenage demon as they track down an escaped Hero. When they run afoul of an angel on the hunt for the Devil’s bible, they uncover a plot to upset the status quo between Heaven and Hell. Claire and her allies end up hunted by angles across different versions of the afterlife (Valhalla being one of them), looking for clues to thwart a demonic rebellion.
Hackwith’s writing uses some repetitive metaphors. (Who isn’t guilty of that?) Perhaps they stick out more during an audiobook experience than they might to a casual reader. Her world-building is detailed with seamless exposition. The characters are well-rounded and compelling.
Narration by Lisa Flanagan is nuanced and adds dimension. She does a great job with a pretty big cast of characters of different sexes, cultures and time periods.
If you’re a fan of The Good Place, Good Omens, Supernatural, Dr. Who, American Gods… you should check out The Library of the Unwritten.