Audiobook Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A review copy was provided by the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Horror, Paranormal
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: HighBridge Audio (6/16/15)
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Narrator: Hillary Huber | Length: 16 hrs 47 min
After hearing such great things about The Library at Mount Char this summer, I finally gave in and took a look for myself. Admittedly, I had some doubts. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t really do well with “weird.” I personally prefer stories that are more grounded, and anything that flirts with the abstract or pushes those metaphysical boundaries will give me pause. Comparisons of this book to Neil Gaiman were probably the first warning bells, and the second flag was raised when I read several reviews for this book mentioning a rampaging psychopath going on a killing spree clad in a purple tutu.
Okay fine, maybe the bit with the purple tutu actually made me want to read this book even more. Still. Regardless, I was definitely prepared for some bizarre WTFery.
Anyway, review guidelines for this audiobook actually require me to include information about the plot in my write-up. Yeah, about that: I’ll do my best. Suffice to say, The Library at Mount Char isn’t exactly a book I can neatly summarize; the story is much bigger than the sum of its parts and it would be impossible to describe the scope of it in a couple paragraphs. Revealing too much will spoil the plot, but I’m afraid anything less also won’t make much sense unless you’ve read the book. Like I said, it’s weird, it’s strange, and more than just a little bit disturbing. Just a word of warning here: this book contains extreme violence and gory content. If you know you don’t like that, best stay away.
If there’s a central character here, it would be Carolyn. She is a Librarian, but not in the way you would expect. Years ago, a mysterious man they call Father “adopted” twelve orphans and made them all his Librarians, much like apprentices of a sort, giving each child a catalog to study and become an expert in. Father’s methods were dark and cruel, and worse he appeared to possess unlimited power over the ancient secrets in Carolyn and the other children’s catalogs. He could do impossible things, like defy the laws of gravity or bring the dead back to life, and with this knowledge he kept the Librarians in line. To his charges, Father was like a god…a god they feared. But now Father is missing, and no one is quite sure what to make of the power vacuum he left behind.
So, I’ve seen comparisons to American Gods bandied around a lot. Throw in 100% more decapitations and disembowelments and I can definitely see that. But ultimately, I think The Library at Mount Char deserves to stand on its own merits as a uniquely imagined masterpiece. If I had any designs to become a writer, I would be completely green with envy at Scott Hawkin’s incredible imagination and creativity. If you want your mind blown by fresh, never-before-seen ideas, then you’ve come to the right place.
That said, The Library at Mount Char is also definitely a “Whoa-what-the-hell-did-I-just-read?” kind of book. At the end of the day, I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I loved the concepts and Hawkin’s writing was superb, so I can really think of nothing negative to say about any of that. But it goes back to my first point about the types of stories I like. It’s not even the graphic descriptions of brutal violence and unspeakable scenes of cruelty or torture (which were difficult, but I managed), and anyway, in general I enjoy dark and twisted tales. In the end, it comes down to the inherent nature of the novel and the fact that it isn’t meant for a reader of my tastes.
That’s why I had such a hard time rating this. I think there’s a line I draw at weirdness, and while this book didn’t quite cross it, it did test my limits, and it kept me from engaging fully with the story and its characters. I will say though, at no point did I lose interest. The Library at Mount Char is a truly fascinating book and all things considered, I think enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. A very special contemporary horror for sure.
Audiobook comments: Hillary Huber did a very good job narrating, especially in her portrayal of Carolyn by capturing the Librarian’s “out of touch” mentality and attitude which was the result of spending so many years outside the real world under Father’s tutelage. She also changed her voice for the other Librarians, and made it easy to distinguish which character was speaking by varying her inflections and tones. Overall, I have no complaints with her performance.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Tiara’s review of The Library at Mount Char