I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Also by this author: The Mad Apprentice
Series: The Forbidden Library #1
Also in this series: The Mad Apprentice
Published by Penguin on 2014-04-15
Genres: Action & Adventure, Books & Libraries, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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The Forbidden Library kicks off a brand new classic fantasy series perfect for fans of Coraline, Inkheart, and The Books of Elsewhere Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within. It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.
I feel a special affinity for books about the magic of books and reading. There’s a special connection there when the author totally puts the magic of words right down on the page, quite literally. Thus, when The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler landed on my door step, I knew that I would have to clear some time in my schedule for the intrepid young heroine Alice, a feisty cat, and a stowaway. As usual, making time to read middle grade fantasy was an excellent life choice. It turns out that I really enjoyed my time with The Forbidden Library, taking in the creative world building and the lovely touches that the interior art provides. If you’re looking for a book to wait on this Wednesday, let The Forbidden Library be the one.
Alice is a young girl who lives in an apartment in Manhattan with just her father. I am unsure where her mother is. Alas. She is a precocious young girl who loves her father very, very much as it is just the two of them. One day, practical young Alice overhears her dad conversing in the library. She goes to investigate and sees a fairy with yellow and black striped wings talking to her dad in a threatening sort of manner. Afraid of being caught eavesdropping, Alice runs back to her bedroom and pretends that she did not hear a single word or see a thing. Her father then leaves suddenly on business aboard a ship, because you see, Django Wexler’s The Forbidden Library is set during the 1930s. Unfortunately for Alice, her father’s ship gets wrecked and she becomes an orphan. Alice ends up going to live with her great Uncle Geryon, a relative she has never met, in Pittsburgh. Geryon is nice and all, but he has this big secret. Geryon is what they call a Reader, meaning he can conjure magic from words in books. It turns out that Alice is a Reader too, and The Forbidden Library is about Alice unraveling her new magic skills and also helping out a friend. Friends, The Forbidden Library will feel reminiscent of Inkheart and is a strong start to a promising new series for children.
I think I will be using the word throwback a lot during this review of Django Wexler’s children’s fiction debut. I cannot help but think in the most positive way that main character Alice feels like a throwback to the female characters of my youth. Like Alice In Wonderland, she is curious. Like Lucy from Narnia she is brave. Alice is practical and no nonsense. I love that she uses logic and gets angry when she sees that fairies exist. There’s a scene in the book where she gets mad at what she is reading because at this point in time, she learns that fairies are NOT real and she’s angry because the book makes them seem so real and it’s like a tease. Can you guys imagine having that sort of anger? I know I have a sense of that when I think to myself that I will never get my Hogwarts letter. Alice has quite a few moral dilemmas in The Forbidden Library, adding an interesting and complex dimension to her character. She is one that I cannot help but root for.
Wexler builds an incredibly interesting magic system in The Forbidden Library. Listen, I want this magic to be real. It’s so cool. Basically a small number of people are gifted with the ability to pull magic and creatures from books just by reading. The Readers in this book are able to pretty much read themselves, or transport themselves into a book. There are Prison books which hold a number of dangerous creatures. There are Portal books which take you all over the planet and beyond. The Readers as a group are scheming and competitive. Geryon’s library is protected by this magical beast named Ending who is one of those unreliable sort of characters. Alice has a Minder named Ashes which is this talking, feisty cat. There’s a dragon. There’s a Swarm. If you want magic, you’ve got it right in this book. If you’ve got a kid with a big imagination, hand them a copy of The Forbidden Library for a spring present.
The Forbidden Library is well paced. It’s not too slow. It’s not breakneck fast. It’s the kind of book you unwind with before bed. It’s very much a journey. The writing certainly is a throwback in the best possible way to the past. I loved that Wexler set the book in the 1930s so that the characters are not hampered by the technology of today. Wexler’s writing is magical. The Forbidden Library should not be overlooked, especially if you are a middle schooler, a parent, or a teacher, or even someone who loves the un-jaded feel of children’s fantasy.