by Pearl North
Edited by James Frenkel
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tor Teen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320964
Date: 07 July 2009 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
One of the perks of being a book reviewer, is that every so often there is a book that comes across your desk that once again manages to entrance you totally in a new world. Pearl North's debut novel, Libyrinth, is such a book. On the surface is a fantasy world where there is only one library and people dedicate their lives to taking care of and researching information from the books they have available, and exploring the farther reaches of this vast library. Of course, there are also people who feel the written word has corrupted the people and made them weak, and only the song can heal the world, and they destroy books. Perhaps, it seems like another old tale of science versus mysticism but North doesn't take the easy road, she's exploring new territory and new options.
Haly is a Libyrarian. She was born in the Libyrinth and her parents never returned from their exploration of new areas of the Libyrinth when she was an infant. She also has a secret, the books talk to her. She can hear any book within range and has had to school herself not to give away the fact that any written piece of material will read itself to her. When she was young she tried to explain, but no one believed her, and so now it is second nature to keep the secret. But, it's this ability that allows her to overhear one of the Libyrarians making a deal with the Eradicants to turn over one of the most precious books in the Libyrinth for destruction. And thus the adventure begins.
No adventure takes place in a vacuum and North has given us a great cast of characters and a wonderful setting for her story. While at first it seems that all is black and white, good against evil, knowledge and science against religion and mysticism, it turns out that all is grey and open to interpretation.
Nothing is quite as it seems and as the story unfolds, the reader has a lot to think about. Haly finds her beliefs turned inside out and upside down as do many of the other characters. While the ending is satisfactory, there are a few loose ends and it would be interesting to see how the changes made as a result of Haly's adventure play out over time.
I found this book wonderfully entertaining, but then I love books about books. Haly listens to books and throughout there are quotes from many books that I'm sure most of us have read or at least heard of. The Dairy of Anne Frank is an essential part of the plot and those quotations and discussions brought back many memories of my reading of the diary many years ago. North has included "A Guide to Quotations" at the end of the story so you can see if you guessed the books the quotes came from.
Libyrinth is a debut novel that is well worth your time and effort to find and read. North is definitely a new writer to watch for in the future.