This was a really good novel. Lemme tell you why.
Thesis statement: The Library at Mount Char is a somewhat confusing amalgamation of mythos, psychology, and character studies that continuously entertains and intrigues.
Now that that’s out of the way, I just want to say that I haven’t been this pleasantly surprised by a book since Stephen Erikson’s Deadhouse Gates, another novel I include in all of my “best ever” drunken ramblings to my-ever-so-patient friends. The Library at Mount Char is Scott Hawkins’ debut novel, and damn is it good. Here’s the premise:
Some time ago, the current ruler of all reality, known as “Father”, took 12 apprentices into his library. Each was assigned to master their own catalogue of knowledge, ranging from the healing arts to the art of war and murder. In the present day, Father disappears. The apprentices vie for control of the Library, which contains all of Father’s knowledge and, potentially, mastery of the Cosmos.
There’s a lot more to it, of course, but that’s a spoiler-free intro.
This story explored some new concepts for me - the “heart coal” and a recurring theme of death and cruelty utterly abound. But it also has a very strong undertone of hope, with a wonderfully realized Everyman (Steve) at the heart of it all.
This novel was about divinity touching the mundane, and all the messy side effects that result. I read all 400 pages or so in about 3 days, which is rare for me. Hawkins’ prose is poetic and snarky simultaneously, without ever hitting a false note. There’s a particular exchange that I love:
“You might have told me he was fucking tiger, Michael.”
“You didn’t know?” He said, guileless, “I thought everyone knew.”
If you’re looking for a book to read over the holidays, I highly recommend this gem. I have no idea if Hawkins plans on writing more stories in this universe but, regardless, I’ll likely pick up his next work.