The Magic of Librarians

“God save me from the yearners. The insatiable, the inconsolable, the ones who chafe and claw against the edges of the world. No book can save them.

(That’s a lie. There are Books potent enough to save any mortal soul: books of witchery, augury, alchemy; books with wand-wood in their spines and moon-dust on their pages; books older than stones and wily as dragons. We give people the books they need most, except when we don’t.)”



Apex Magazine, February 2018
Edition Language

Literary Awards

Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies“ (2019)
Nebula Award Nominee for Short Story for “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies(2018) 
Locus Award Nominee for Short Story for “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies“ (2019)
World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Short Fiction for “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” (2019)

Book Synopsis

Apex Magazine is a monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine featuring original, mind-bending short fiction from many of the top pros of the field. New issues are released on the first Tuesday of every month.

My Thoughts...

I love the premise of this story. I am a fan of libraries, and specifically librarians. They are keys, in alot of cases, to unlocking unknown worlds. They have the important job of introducing the masses to stories, and resources they never knew before. This story by Alix E. Harrow highlights her love of librarians and they take on a almost superhero mystique. The premise of the story is that Librarians are actually secret witches. They see people in their libraries that need some sort of help or assistance and they offer that assistance. Whatever that is. If a child deep down is lonely, the witch will find the a book that will help him battle loneliness. Specifically, in this story there is an African American kid who is seeking escape. He becomes enamored with a story and checks it out over and over. The question of the story is whether this witch(the narrator) breaks the rules and helps him escape.
The neat thing about this story is that it is almost written as a love letter to readers. Readers love the smell of books, of buildings that house the books. Readers love the escapism in stories. It is quite a fantasy to extend that to actual power. Books having an actual power over the reader.
Whether you agree with the actions of the witch from a practical stand point, you can at least understand her choices.
I loved this story, as I love much of Harrow’s writing. There is a certain tone and poetic quality the language she uses that is in much of her stories. This is no exception. Check it out, it is a short and enjoyable love letter that many readers will appreciate.

About The Author

I’ve been a student and a teacher, a farm-worker and a cashier, an ice-cream-scooper and a 9-to-5 office-dweller. I’ve lived in tents and cars, cramped city apartments and lonely cabins, and spent a summer in a really sweet ’79 VW Vanagon. I have library cards in at least five states.

Now I’m a full-time writer living in with my husband and two semi-feral kids in Berea, Kentucky. It is, I’m very sure, the best of all possible worlds.

My debut novel–a historical fantasy called THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY–will be out in Fall 2019 from Orbit/Redhook.

My writing is represented by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.


  • I really need to read this story

  • JonBob says:

    I really like the sound of this story! The excerpt at the beginning is so engrossing and Alix seems to really have a way with words.

    I’m both excited to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January and keen to support small presses (I actually have three Apex novels on my planned reading list this month) so I think I might check this short story out and also keep an eye on the magazine more generally 🙂

  • Off The TBR says:

    I read this when it came out and the interview Angela (Little Red Reviewer) did with her in the same issue and then found Alix in Twitter. In the interview she mentioned working in a book (became Ten Thousand Doors of January). I’ve been a fan ever since.

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