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Monday, 12 May 2014

Review: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library is Django Wexler's first attempt at YA (young adult). According to the back, Wexler is trying to create a classic in the mould of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.Funny enough, the main protagonist is also called Alice.

http://www.bookdepository.com/Forbidden-Library-Django-Wexler/9780857532879While sneaking around after bed time, Alice, a young girl of 12, stumbles upon a secret meeting her father is having with a fairy. Yet, this fairy is more like a fat flying bumble bee, nothing like what Alice imagined a Fairy would be. The day after, her father goes on a trip and then suddenly disappears. He is declared dead and Alice gets taken in by her estranged uncle Geryon. Her uncle lives in a mansion called The Library which is full of cats.

In The Library, Alice does mundane jobs for her uncle. She has a sneaking suspicion that the cats are watching her, even laughing at her. One day, a black cat starts talking to her! He leads her through the library and soon enough Alice is lost, it’s as if the library was shifting and creating new pathways as they were walking. By accident, Alice picks up a book and suddenly along with the black cat, is sucked inside the book.

The cliche of kids being sucked through into another dimension has been done a lot of recently years, however, children who read these types of books love it. Why change something that works?

The worst thing was it seemed like a rehash of my favourite kids book Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Young girl, black cat that can talk, alternative universe. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I started to change my mind.

One of the differences is the magic in this book. Those who can be “sucked” into books are called Readers and they have the ability to understand magical books (known as prison books) and bind creatures inside these books to themselves . This grants them their powers. To do so however, they have to defeat the prisoner inside. The way Wexler incoporates the powers is really well done. At no time is the magic too powerful and the characters in the book find clever ways at solving their problems.

Something that I though Wexler could have done better was build up more suspense through the latter half of the book. While he builds up a lot of the background, the interesting parts end much too quickly.

Wexler also writes adult fantasy books, so I hope it isn't too long before the sequel to The Forbidden Library comes out.

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