The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

I took a break from all the heavy stuff I’ve been reading and read three wonderful children / YA novels.  Here is a review of the first (and my favorite) in the trifecta!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The book will be published on April 30, 2019.

A brilliantly imaginative story combining history, science, and the importance of knowledge into a children’s adventure story centered around the most impressive, awesome, majestic, humongous library of all time.

Lenora — our eleven-year old heroine — escapes from her (luckily) inattentive nanny through a secret arch of her local library and lands in the aforementioned “Library of Ever.” Confronted with a ten-foot tall stern and very pointy librarian who insists that only library employees may enter, she applies for and is immediately granted a job as the 4th Assistant Apprentice Librarian. Her largely self-directed adventures take her through the Calendar help desk, the cartography section, and a live-action diorama of Bubastes (look this up!). She helps penguins find their way home, a tardigrade (yes — this is a real thing — look this up too!) get directions to Alpha Centauri, and a King in the year 8000 unravel some trouble with time. My absolutely favorite part is when she dons a pheromone interpreter (in her nostrils) in order to help her understand a group of troubled ants.

Most importantly throughout, she works to fight off the Forces of Darkness personified as beings dressed in overcoats and bowler hats, who seek to extinguish the light of knowledge in the world around them.

This should be required reading for all middle schoolers — an ode to librarians and a concise and pithy description of the importance of libraries and knowledge freely available to all.

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Story: 4.5/5

Time’s Convert is a companion novel to Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy featuring further adventures (and backstories) for the de Clermont family and its associated array of creatures (Vampires, Witches, and Daemons). Not your typical “creature” book, these stories focus more on the sociology, psychology, and anthropology of a world simultaneously populated by both humans and such beings, and less on aggression, fear, and battles. It explores the maturation of individual Vampires and of an integrated society as a whole. Diversity writ large.

The three intertwined tales — Phoebe Taylor becomes a Vampire so she can mate with Markus; Markus’ historical tale of becoming a vampire 200 years before; and Diana (Witch) and Matthew’s (Vampire) young twins as they become new creatures with both Vampire and Witch blood — are all about growing up — understanding who you are and how you fit in society. The characters in these different threads are defining and following their own code of ethics, moving beyond the code imposed by the head of the de Clermont family in a clear progression up the levels of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Not what I expect from a traditional (and usually boring) vampire story!

The author is a Professor of History at USC, specializing in the study of science and medicine from antiquity to the present. The book is suffused with intriguing and historically accurate tidbits from the American and French revolutions — characters such as Ben Franklin, Dr. Guillotin, Lafayette, and Marat play roles in the story and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is key to Markus’ development (with great quotes such as “Folks are always in favor of fairness until they have to give up something they have to someone else” spread liberally throughout — I need to reread the pamphlet!).

This book had less action and less romance and more character development, history, and a kind of cerebral world building in it which really appealed to me. A surprisingly good (and fast) read.