What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?
Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again. Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. The city is also being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but… things… keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such dangerous creature. She turns to Shadow, an alchemist, for aid, but Shadow—inadvertently possessed by an ifrit—has a perilous quest of her own to undertake.
Never have I been more frustrated by a book than this one. I know that info-dumping is not cool however I need context especially since this is the first novel in a series. I didn’t get that context. I got NO information whatsoever about the world – there is no worldbuilding whatsoever – no, that’s wrong. There is a world, it seems like a fascinating world but I have no idea where it is – is it a different planet as I suspected? And if so, how was it populated by humans? Are they still humans? What is the time context? How far off in the future is this world located? The religions and the divisions seem to be similar to ones found on earth but are the sections all found in one city? But if so how can the different climates all exist in the same city? And if it’s not the same city, why is it that traveling from one place to another seems so easy? And who (or what) exactly is this Skein? Why are there so many female characters in the novel but the men, when present, are the ones who are powerful and corrupt in their power? What the heck is going on exactly?
From the above questions you might be able to discern my state of mind while reading and after reading. The book is well written and with a bit more care taken to the world building and information, it would easily have been a favourite. However, there are so many characters being introduced, left, right and center, that you are unable to make any lasting connection for a good chunk of the novel. And then there are the “interludes” where Williams becomes all mysterious and the character is either “He” or “She” to add to that mystery and it just made me angry because I was fast running out of patience with a novel that refused to let me read and enjoy it. Not that the characters are poorly developed – they are not. There are just way too many of them and they serve to scatter attention. Also, I thought the focus was going to be the library and it is but only in the loosest sense. Most of the focus is on the “rent” in the books and the “Storyways” which are never explained. There are angels and “Dukes of Hell” but they are also not explained and it all a bloody soup that Williams keeps adding ingredients to.
The narrative mentions “modern” architecture which again begs the question of time – what time is modern and is my modern the same as their modern and is that even possible because contemporary modern is not possible for a world that does not exist on Earth. Gah. Frustrating doesn’t even cover it.
Listen, I know that readers are supposed to glean a world from between the lines but not like this! Never like this! There were things I liked about this novel, in fact, I could have LOVED this novel had it been clearer and more explicit. What a freaking waste, man. Also, you spend the novel thinking that one aspect, the villainous aspect is what the main conflict is but it turns out you’re wrong at the 11th hour. And the villain? Well, he’s not much of a villain. Gah. I apologise for this is not a very coherent review but considering the novel, you should not be too surprised.
Can I recommend it to you? I don’t know, man. Maybe it’s me and I’m too dumb to completely understand and comprehend the intricacies present in this novel. I just think that the story of the two different women, their friendship and their journey together could have been presented way better than it was.