Published: June 1, 2021 (US)
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Edinburgh Nights #1
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.
The synopsis of this book immediately caught my attention and quite frankly it hasn’t let go since! I started this book Saturday, expecting it to take several days to finish up but dang. It was so good I finished it Sunday morning! It’s a wild ride, throwing you into this strange world where talking to the dead and delivering their messages (for a fee of course) is fairly standard practice. It takes a little time to orient oneself and even then, some of the slang used was a bit confusing, but it didn’t detract from the story. I just found myself going ??? occasionally.
The story stars Ropa, a girl who speaks to ghosts and carries messages to those they’ve left behind. Ropa is quite the character, literally and figuratively but while her exterior may catch some off guard, she’s clearly a loving, good person who takes care of those near and dear to her. She lives with her little sister and elderly grandmother and the money she brings in carrying the messages of the dead pays for their lot fee, her grandmother’s medicines, and other such necessities. Ropa’s need to keep her family housed and cared for drives her to work long nights and she doesn’t do charity work for the spirits of the dead, that’s for damn sure. Until one such plea for help continues to tug at her conscience and when she speaks to her grandmother about it, she encourages Ropa to check it out. Thus begins her quest to find out who is kidnapping children, sucking the youth from them, and leaving their sad little husks wandering about the city.
The characters in this story are so vibrant and fascinating – not just Ropa, but her family and friends, and those she meets along the way. This story is by turns phenomenally dark, highlighting the terrible things people can inflict upon others, and hopeful, showing the good people can do for others. The fantastical elements in this story just enrich an already interesting alternate version of Edinburgh, where something terrible happened in the not too distant past. The vague mysteriousness of it all kept me reading nearly as much as the main plot! Then there’s the titular Library of the Dead… which wasn’t nearly as big a feature as I thought it would be, though it almost certainly will play a larger role in future books which I am VERY EXCITED for.
I really just couldn’t’ put this book down, which surprised me because it sort of just came out of nowhere – this amazing book had such little marketing (that I saw) but it deserved so much more! So I’ll be the marketing – it was amazing! Go read it and immerse yourself in this dark, forlorn Scottish cityscape filled with the paranormal! Also, there is a hugely creepy house and I might be forever traumatized by those chapters, I mean WTF WAS THAT! It was awesome, but I’m still thinking about how disturbing that was…