The Library at Mount Char is a strange book. Sometimes it’s really interesting and suspenseful; other times, it’s horrific (as in horror literature, not general quality). The thing is, at least for me, is that the two don’t quite mesh together.
The general story follows Caroline and Steve, who apparently has some kind of criminal past but now lives a quiet life as a plumber. He meets Caroline who seems a little off but who offers him an unusual amount of money to help her break into somewhere to retrieve something. She’s that specific. The story then shifts back and forth between Caroline and Steve, ending up more with Caroline since she does have one heck of a backstory. In fact she’s the one who opens the novel trying to get home looking battered but then finding her “siblings” unable to get into the house or find their “Father”. Those quotation marks are there for a reason. It turns out Caroline and the other people she grew up with are all adopted by a mysterious Father who may be a god or god-like being of some sort took in a bunch of kids who all lost their parents after a big fire, and makes them into ‘librarians’ each of them mastering a scroll, or discipline including things like languages (ALL of them), violence and war, death, time, medicine (which includes the art of resurrection), etc. You get a lot more information about some of the librarians than others, but for everyone this ends up being exactly the kind of twisted results you might expect from such an upbringing, especially since Father seems to be a bit psychotic, as in sometimes putting a disobedient student/child in an iron grill shaped like a bull and roasting them alive, then bringing them back to life having hopefully learned his or her lesson.
Naturally, what Caroline wants from Steve turns out to draw him into something supernatural, strange, and at times something straight out of a horror movie, as in severed heads of characters you’d at least briefly met earlier are noted, but then nothing else about the person who’s apparently just died quite gruesomely. This seems to be a thing in this novel: someone has some meaning to the story, they get killed badly, and suddenly merit no more attention from the story or anyone else. It’s pretty arbitrary too, as to who gets ignored and who actually gets some after-death, or inter-death, attention. Also involved are Erwin, who is some kind of agent for the government who also has some vague but apparently eventful past, and Naga (short for “Nagasaki”), a lioness, whose father Dresden has more voice and personality, even though she sticks around the story for longer. As it all turns out, there’s been a grand plan the whole time, but exactly who has been in control is unclear until the end, and even then it’s not entirely clear.
It’s all pretty suspenseful, and there’s some surprises in certain characters and events, but the thing is the reveals are all pretty close together and the big one concerning Caroline and her Father doesn’t get much of a lead in which makes the revelation which is critical to the finale seem kind of abrupt. I also had to re-read Steve and Caroline’s last scene together twice to figure out what had happened since it wasn’t quite clear the first time.
I had this as travel reading, and I’m not sure that was the best choice. It did work well to have to/be able to pause sometimes, since I would have had trouble reading parts of this straight through, but this is also a story that I at least would make faces and occasional small noses/comments at, and that’s not really the kind of thing you want to be seen or heard doing in very close proximity to people who don’t know you.