The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

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The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Energetic and absorbing middle grade fantasy where magicians are Readers and spells are Books. The central character is satisfyingly spunky and I loved the way no other character is to be trusted. At all.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857532871

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Alice is a little girls whose feet are planted firmly in the here and now. She's sensible. And studious. And practical. So when, one night, she overhears a conversation between her father and a vicious little fairy, she's more than a little shaken. But before she has had time to process this worrying event, Alice's father has rushed away on a business trip. Within days, the news comes that his ship has foundered and there are no survivors.

Alice finds herself packed off to stay with a mysterious uncle her father never told her about. Geryon is a strange man and his house is even stranger. Never-seen servants prepare food and clear it away. And the servants you can see are strange - Mr Black sinister, Emma an automaton. There's only one rule: Alice must not enter the Library...

... so, of course, she does.

And inside the Library, Alice discovers a strange world where magicians are Readers and spells are Books. Can she use this world to find the fairy she saw talking to her father? Can she discover whether or not her father is still alive? When it will take all her courage and all her nascent Reading skills to even survive?

As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the world of Readers is one of self-interest, double deals and shifting alliances. Alice can't ally herself with the goodies because there really aren't any goodies. The people she meets might risk their lives to save hers but might just as easily try to kill her. It all depends on the situation. So Alice can't trust anyone. I loved this in a book for middle grade readers where the delineation between good and evil is usually so clear.

Despite this, Alice is a quick thinker and manages to create temporary alliances that get her out of some immediate holes. She also forges the beginnings of genuine friendships, particularly with Ashes, the half-cat, and Isaac, the apprentice Reader. But what gets Alice through is her singlemindedness. She's focused on a single goal: finding out what happened to her father. And this means that she is able to navigate the shifting sands of the Library much better than others expect her to. But of course, in the world of faction fantasy, this pluck and determination also makes her a rich prize for the main players.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Forbidden Library. It's rich and dense and creative. Alice is a great - and stubborn! - heroine and the supporting cast is delicious. It serves up a great mix of the expected tropes and settings offered by middle grade fantasy but it also subverts some so it feels fresh and new. I'm looking forward to book two.

If The Forbidden Library appeals to you, then you might also enjoy Mariah Mundi (The Midas Box) by G P Taylor.

Buy The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler at

Buy The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler at


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