This book was *not* what I expected. With ‘library’ in the title, I expected something like ‘The Librarians”, or perhaps books of magic. Something with a professorial main character. I was very, very, wrong.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book! I admit I was very confused at first. A woman covered in blood walking down the road. Then backstory; she was indeed raised in a giant library, complete with ancient handwritten books and a handful of other orphan children. But their “Father” who took them in was cruel and violent beyond all normal versions of cruel. The ‘catalogs’, the divisions of the library, are things like languages (which our main character studies and includes the languages of animals, storm clouds, and volcanos), murder and war, healing, death, and other things that never really get mentioned. Each ‘catalog’- which covers one floor of the library- is studied by one-and only one- of the orphans. And it warps them. Horribly. Human at the start, they become both more and less than human.
The book centers on Carolyn, the language specialist; Steve, a former thief gone straight; and Erwin, a former military man turned government agent who does not follow the book. Carolyn has a mission and she needs Steve for it. She keeps Steve in the dark - the mission has him in prison for killing a cop, rescued by a ‘human’ killing machine, savaged by dogs, teamed up with a lion (who thankfully seems to understand English), and just generally not having a good time. Erwin is trying to figure out what both Steve and Carolyn are up to. What it turns out to be was nothing I could have ever thought up.
While there is near constant action, things are revealed slowly; what the library is, who Father is, what and why Carolyn is doing what she is. It’s more science fiction than fantasy. It took me a while to get into it and figure out who was who, but once I did, I became very engaged in the story. It *is* very violent and very bloody, which I wasn’t wild about. I liked Steve, and eventually Erwin, but couldn’t warm up to Carolyn. There once the entire story is told, though, I was able to see why she was like she was.
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