Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Forbidden Library

By Django Wexler (April 15th 2014, Kathy Dawson Books)

Book Description:

One night young Alice spies her father speaking, impossibly, to a fairy. A few days later he is presumed dead in a shipwreck. Alone and refusing to believe her father’s death, Alice is sent to live with Greyon, an uncle she had never heard of before.

In Greyon’s large and mysterious mansion, things aren’t as they seem. All the housework is done by invisible servants, and there is a strange library that is off limits. 

But curiosity gets the best of Alice and she goes off exploring the library on her own. There, she finds the fairy her father had spoken to before he disappeared.

In her determination to question the fairy, Alice discovers that she is a Reader, someone with ability to enter magical books and bind the creatures that live in them to their will. With help of a talking cat and a boy she isn’t sure she can trust, Alice must discover what happened to her father and who’s responsible.  


The Forbidden Library is a beautifully written whimsical fantasy. More than anything else, it reminded me of the Narnia books, which is high praise indeed. 

I think this feeling was brought about not only by the obvious stylistic and structural similarities but also by the fact that this book is set in about the same time period. Wexler did a really good job of capturing the simplicity of the time, especially in comparison to our own.

Alice, the hero of the story, is one of the highlights of the book: resourceful, smart and tough – and the reader only likes and respects her more as she goes through this fantastical journey. 

Wexler’s writing was also very instrumental in setting the mood of the book by keeping the language streamlined but still retaining an old-fashioned feel that complimented the setting.  


The Forbidden Library suffers from a common problem with fantasy books: a slow beginning. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but since this book is intended for a younger audience and nothing happens for over a quarter of the book, it could be a real problem. 

The plot does improve beyond that point, but not significantly, and I could easily see younger readers losing patience with the story. More action and higher stakes could have made this book great.

The world-building, though not bad, was oddly flat. I wasn’t sure if the problem was not enough description or poor choices as what to describe, but either way, the world didn’t feel fully fleshed-out.  

The illustrations did little to alleviate this problem. Not only were they a bad fit, but they also failed to capture the more magical moments of the book. They were far too dark (physically) for the story and there were a lot of distracting inconsistencies in how things were depicted. 


With strong writing, a fun magical world and a very likable heroine, The Forbidden Library has a lot to offer those willing to be patient with its slow beginning and more subdued pacing. 

Rating: (6.5/10)

Get it on Book Depository 

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