Book Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount CharGenre: Fantasy, Horror

Publisher: Crown Books (June 16, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Tiara’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars



Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Crown Books via Netgalley. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.

First a brief warning. This book is violent, including some violence against children, and has many gross depictions that some people might not be able to stomach. I wanted to acknowledge that before I attempted to talk about this story. Your mileage may vary.

I wish I could say this was an easy book to sum up, but it’s not at all. I’ll try my best, but I fear what I have to say about this book won’t be adequate enough in capturing the imagination and ingenuity that went into creating this story. As a long time fan of horror (for a good number of years I exclusively read only horror books, even forsaking my beloved science fiction), you often see me say in my horror reviews that nothing scares me much anymore. I’m too desensitized to most things that appear in horror stories. However, there are stories that can still leave me unsettled, and any horror story that can leave me with that disturbed, bothered feeling, that feeling that makes me turn the story over and over in my mind, that feeling that keeps me up at night pondering the story, is a success. This book left me unsettled. This book is a success. I haven’t had a story that’s made me feel that in a long time. The closest story that has made me feel that way recently was PKD’s Ubik, and it’s not necessarily a horror story and it didn’t make me ponder it anywhere on the level that I’ve pondered this one.

This story follows a woman, Carolyn. Many years ago, when she was still a child, Carolyn and her “siblings” were adopted by a man named Father during a moment they call Adoption Day. It was the day all their parents died, and they became his. Afterwards, each child is tasked with learning to master a catalog. These catalogs have information ranging from languages to advanced husbandry to the art of war. They aren’t allowed to share the contents of their catalog with one another, except where practical application allows it. Carolyn is a linguist who has mastered over fifty languages. Father is believed to be the master of all the catalogs. Father is powerful and cruel, but now he has gone missing. They are far removed from society, and while they live in the United States, they see themselves as being different from “Americans” once Father’s disappearance forces them back into society to find answers. While Father’s children certainly want to know what happened to him, more out of fear than true devotion it seems, a bigger opportunity presents itself. Who will take over the library? Who will step up and become essentially a god?

This is a dark book peppered with moments of comedic situations often juxtaposed side by side with its savagery. There is one character known for his immense cruelty, and often his scenes are filled with brutality, but despite the carnage he orchestrates, there’s always one moment where someone still has time to think about the absurdity of the purple tutu he wears without realizing these men and women are so far out of touch with society they don’t realize they’re not actually blending in. Their ignorance of how the world works, a world they’ve long stopped understanding, often makes for these “haha” moments, but you’re quickly reminded that these women and men are dangerous, predatory even, as this is how they’ve been raised by Father. This book largely follows Carolyn and her exploits, and Carolyn proves to be naive and calculating all in the same breath. One moment you’re pulled toward her, and the next you’re pushed away. As compelling as Carolyn is, though, she couldn’t have carried this story alone. She’s supported by a bizarre menagerie of characters that really help to make this story engrossing.

This story has flowing, lyrical passages that are downright beautiful, and then can suddenly flip the script and give you such ugly, visceral words. And this works for this story. That’s part of what makes the story fascinating. This is one of those books that will have you flipping back in the story reevaluating what you previously learned as more and more of the picture is painted for you. It’s strange, weird, barbaric while being a parable of sorts that echoes the sentiment that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In fact, there are probably hundreds of overarching themes you could pull from this story.  It may even leave you with an overall feeling of “What the fuck did I just read?” I’m still analyzing this book and the ending, and I feel like I’ll eventually end up rating this higher after I’m able to make sense of some things. This will probably be a book I pick up again and again, a book I’ll pluck something new from every time I read it. Well played, Mr. Hawkins.


18 Comments on “Book Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins”

  1. It sounds like a really difficult and dark book to read but atthe same time it’s quite intriguing and interesting too. I’m glad you hada good time with the story.


    • I haven’t read a really good horror story in a long time. Part of that may be my own fault because I’ve been focusing on more SFF lately, but I did enjoy this one. It kind of made me think of old Stephen King and Clive Barker books.


  2. Sounds very intriguing – I saw this on NG and was interested then but it may only have been available US. May have to go and have another look. I like a book that makes me keep thinking days after I put it down.
    Lynn 😀


    • It’s a very interesting book. It actually took me a while to write this review because I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to say that would do it any justice. I still don’t feel like I did it any justice at all, but if you like horror, I do encourage you to give it a chance. It’s not going to be a hit for everyone, but it’s worth a try.


  3. I have a copy of this, and started it, but it turned out to be quite different than I expected, not at all what I had been in the mood for. I set it aside, have tried a couple times to pick it back up, but no luck yet. It really straddled my “weird threshold” which didn’t help. But, seeing how much you enjoyed it, maybe I should revisit it.


    • For some people this is definitely going to be a bit too far out there and I can definitely see why, but I really enjoyed its weirdness. It’s definitely not going to work for everyone. I don’t think I would actually blame you if you didn’t pick it up again. LOL.


  4. Excellent review. I’ve been sitting on the fence for this book for a while, wondering if I should check it out. The “weirdness” of it was a big factor that made me wary, but for all the reasons why I thought this book might not be for me, I never thought it could be the horror aspect. I love horror as well, but wow something that can unsettle Tiara? I don’t know if that makes me want to read this more or read it less now! I’m scared, lol.


    • It’s very weird and the horror is what makes it so weird. It’s a graphic book. I’ve read more graphic books maybe, but so much of this is like you have a dude rampaging in a tutu and there’s guts and blood and all kind of craziness. And the characters are so bizarre. There’s one character that just had me like WTF whenever I had to read about her. However, I did like this book. There’s a lot of layers to this and it is definitely unsettling.


    • It’s an intriguing concept, but it is definitely a dark and brutal concept as well. If you don’t normally do horror, I don’t know if I can recommend it to you.


        • It was excellent. I honestly can say I haven’t read too many books that have felt really different, but this one was something new that I enjoyed immensely.


        • Understandable, but I think it’s great that it can be enjoyed by people who don’t normally read horror. However, as I said this is a dark, brutal book. I’m glad to get input from people who don’t normally ready horror and how this translate to them.


  5. I’m currently reading this and your cataloging it as weird and barbaric is perfect. Not having finished it…I don’t know what to say. Great review.


    • I almost felt bad kind of chuckling in the scenes where the tutu came up, but as odd as that is, it works with the general weirdness of the story. Hope you come out of it enjoying it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Teaser Tuesday & Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds | The BiblioSanctum

  7. Pingback: Audiobook Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins | The BiblioSanctum

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