T.L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead was one of my favorite books of last year, so you better believe I went nuts when I saw that unbelievable cover. Just like the first, this book is captivating, immersing you in the world of a post-catastrophe Edinburgh through the eyes of one teen girl who can quote Sun Tzu one moment and then fall back into Scottish slang the next.
After the events of the last book, Ropa’s ghostalking business has tanked. But that’s ok because she’s soon to start a paid apprenticeship with Sir Callander, her mentor and one of the most important magicians in Scotland. But when opposition to her appointment turns it into more of an unpaid internship, Ropa’s left scrambling for a way to support her family again. Luckily her bestie, Priya, has a mystery for her to investigate as part of her job at Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments. A rich schoolboy is in a coma at the posh hospital, and detective work is right up Ropa’s alley. But Ropa’s investigation will lead her from the campus of one of Scotland’s most prestigious schools to Edinburgh’s underbelly to the astral planes, from the Library of the Dead to an even more secretive archive.
“But this is me, this is my life. Everything I do, I do for them two, and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the whole wide world. Mornings like this in the eye of the storm, I just wanna freeze time. Here, now, this moment. Me, Gran and Izwi. That’s my real fortune, and I wouldn’t place it in any bank in the world, ’cause I keep it right here in a vault in my heart.”
I absolutely adore Ropa. Sure, she makes some questionable decisions (ok, maybe a lot of questionable decisions) but her heart is in the right place. Everything she does is in service to helping out her Gran and her sister Izwi and there’s no question of how much she loves them. Her voice is so evocative and immersive that it feels more like having a conversation with her than reading a book. Ropa’s an amazing combination of booksmart and practical, deeply aware of the social and class differences between her and the others she interacts with but more apt to thumb her nose at them rather than simply accept them. She’s fierce, always hustling, and always learning, and honestly I want to be her when I grow up!
As with the first book, the world building as well is absolutely stellar. Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian Edinburgh, the absolute depth of history and culture is astonishing. Ropa’s (and the author’s) obvious love of the city comes through loud and clear. There’s some interesting detours through Scottish history (like the Darien scheme, which I had to look up to see if it was real) which are worked into the plot seamlessly. There’s lots of new places to visit, but some old favorites are revisited as well, often with a new light. There’s a reason, for instance, why the librarians in the Library of the Dead refer to things as “texts” instead of “books,” and that part left me wide-eyed. Old favorite characters are back as well, like adrenaline junkie Priya and Ropa’s other bestie Jomo (still cleaning wax off tables, alas), though they’re also not exempt from some shocking twists (looking at you, Gran). There’s also some tantalizing hints about the identity of the One Above All which leads me to be even more excited about what could possibly happen next.
“Life’s relentless like that. The world don’t stop for a minute, not for the worst grief, not for the worst tragedy. The sun rises on cue every morning. The wind blows on her course. Rivers flow and rain falls. Vows are taken and later broken.
I am bloody moved by it all.”
Overall, this is an excellent sequel to an equally amazing book. I miss Ropa already and can’t wait to see what she gets up to next!
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.