Book Review: The Forbidden Library – by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library #1

YA, Fantasy

Kathy Dawson Books; April 15, 2014

376 pages (ebook); 8hr 31m (audio)

3.5 / 5 ✪

The Forbidden Library serves as my intro to Django Wexler, which probably isn’t for the best. I mean, it’s an alright read—moments of excitement, entertainment and intrigue all wrapped up in an 8 hour package—but it’s nothing to distract from the ARCs spread around me. Of course, I was reading this while playing Sniper Elite, for, while the gameplay is amazing, the story is boring.

Forbidden Library is actually excellent for multitasking purposes: an easy to follow story; a nice, quick read (it followed up the Ember Blade, which went for 30+); an interesting world filled with adequate characters and a lovely adventure.

Alice is an only child. Born to a single father during the early- to mid-20th century, she begins as a child of some means—with her own servants, gas lamps, governor and tutors.And yet this life is not for Alice, as she is soon to learn. She awakens one night to her father’s voice, raised in anger, talking to a mysterious stranger. Upon descending from her room, Alice finds him in an argument with a meager opponent—a small, pointy-eared, pointy-toothed, honest to goodness fairy. They argue over the life of a girl, and something Alice cannot guess, before she is forced to withdraw to her room. But not before she hears the fairy threaten him.

The very next day, her father is called away on business. A week later he is lost for good, disappeared along with the entire crew of the Gideon, en route to Buenos Aires. And Alice is left alone.

And yet, she does not want for long. Soon enough, a car comes for her; in it, a man representing her uncle Jerry. Alice accompanies him to her uncle, where she is confronted with far more than she ever bargained for. A vast library. A world of mystery, fairies and more. A conflicted boy. And magic—the magic of books. What follows is a magical adventure featuring books and magic, a lost dragon, several talking cats, and more than a few interesting characters.

It’s… yeah, it’s okay.

I’m not sure I’d recommend it at full price, but on sale or from the library it’s a deal. I’m never sure exactly how to rate YA books. I mean, if they’re too infantile, they’re barely worth reading at any age. Granted, I don’t read a whole lot of them, so. Otherwise… well, the line is blurry.

There’s a decent amount of intrigue and backstabbing in this, which surprised me. Otherwise it’s your plain, run-of-the-mill YA fantasy, complete with a budding-maybe romance, a simple mystery, a sparsely detailed world, interesting if generally shallow characters. It’s worth posting out that over the course of the next few books, several of the main characters featured in the Forbidden Library DO evolve depth—but as the focal point in the first book is adventure, that element is left behind.

I liked Alice—as a character, as a person. Comparing her to other YA stars, she’s more than competent, her emotions are more complex, she’s definitely fleshed out as to actually appear human. When comparing her to some other characters—Thomas, from the Maze Runner; Cassidy, from City of Ghosts—she’s more relatable, less juvenile, more descriptive. Basically what you’d want in a lead.

So… yeah, I’d recommend it. The story is okay, as are the plot, mystery, magic and dialogue. The development and detail are a little lacking, but the intrigue and lead character are where the book most shines. I’d read it, and plan to continue the series (just finished #2, in fact).

Audiobook Note: the reader was pretty good, while not amazing. Not my favorite, but she tried. I’d try a sample at least if you’re planning on buying this, as at certain points I found her voice grating, and yet I got used to it quick enough. She’s [Cassandra Morris] better in the second book, really.

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