I found the premise of this one fascinating – a post-apocalyptic Scotland and a young, gutsy protagonist straddling two cultures. And I can’t deny that the cover also blew me away.
BLURB: 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.
REVIEW: Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Ropa is an engaging protagonist and given the awful circumstances she finds herself battling with, the fact that she is only fourteen worked for me, although I am aware some reviewers had a bit of a problem with her youth. But children in difficult times grow up fast and she still demonstrated that odd mix of maturity and flashes of someone much younger that makes up a teen personality. I thought the characterisation of the protagonist was the main strength of the book, though I also liked the depiction of a civilisation steadily falling apart. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t aware of exactly why everything was quite so dire – given we are in Ropa’s viewpoint, pages of explanation about the political situation would have been out of character.
I also liked the members of Ropa’s family – her relationship with her younger sister could have so easily become a bit treacly, and I was pleased that it didn’t. The constant friction between the girls over the use of her phone was nicely realistic, having had to step into the middle of similar fights between my grandchildren. Her granny is also an intriguing personality, who taught Ropa the magic she uses, drawing on her Zimbabwean culture to be able to speak to the departed and help them. All this worked really well for me.
However, I wasn’t quite so impressed with the plotting. The story was completely predictable and I guessed (successfully) what was going to happen from about halfway through the book. As you can see from the score, that wasn’t a huge dealbreaker for me as Ropa’s personality made this an entertaining read anyway. I’m not wholly convinced about the library angle of the story, either. To be honest, it felt a tad tacked on, and wasn’t in the same league as Ropa’s characterisation, and the interesting world she is forced to operate in. There are some fabulous magical libraries out there already – ranging from the hilariously dangerous version at the Unseen University in Pratchett’s Discworld with an orangutang for a librarian, through to Genevieve Cogman’s highly successful Invisible Library series. Huchu is going to have to work at making this version really stand out.
That said, I would happily read the second book in this series just to spend a bit more time with Ropa. Recommended for fans who particularly enjoy strong young protagonists operating in difficult circumstances. While I obtained an arc of The Library of the Dead from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
Ropa sounds like the main reason to read this book! And I have to agree, if you’re going to make a magical library the focus of your story, you really have to step up your game these days😁
Yes – and I’m hoping the next book takes the library up to that next notch of fabulousness, given how interesting Ropa is.
Excellent review! This sends me into an examination, as I have been doing recently, of how I rate books for reviews.
It’s always a judgement call, isn’t it? This one was definitely headed for a 9 or 10, but I found myself downgrading it. That didn’t prevent it from being an entertaining read that kept me turning the pages with enjoyment, which is why it ended up an 8… And why I’m keen to read the next one:)
Great review Sarah, I’m definitely interested in it.
Thank you, Shelleyrae – this is definitely worth reading. An impressive debut, despite having a few issues, I think.
I’ve been curious about this one since it made its first appearance, and while I’m aware of the small “hiccups” in the story itself, I don’t believe they will be enough to deter me… 😉
Thanks for sharing!
The hiccups certainly didn’t deter me – and I’m quite picky about plot progression. I’d love to know your opinion on this one…
Ropa sounds awesome. Glad to know despite the hiccups with the plot you enjoyed the story. Great review.
Thank you, Nadene:)
Yeah, I had mixed feelings with this one. I really liked certain aspects. There’s a kind of raw gritty feel to the world and I liked how tough Ropa was whilst at the same time still managing to retain a soft spot for others in need. The library angle – I mean I love a good library and I didn’t mind this one – I just wish the title hadn’t made it seem that the library would be central to the plot. What about the Milkman – he was a scary so and so. Put me in mind of Michael Myers in a milkfloat!
Oh yes – I thought the antagonist was really well depicted and the chase through the city worked well. I definitely want to read the next one:)).