“All books, no matter their binding, will fall to Dust. The stories they carry may last longer. They might outlive the paper, the library, or even the language in which they were first written. The greatest story can reach the stars..”
Evar is a young gentleman who resides within a section of the behemothic library that is the setting of a huge proportion of The Book That Wouldn’t Burn. He lives alongside his peculiar family: a soldier, an assistant, and his brothers and sister. Each of his adopted siblings has a particular area of expertise, be it philosophy, history, warfare, or assassination. Although, like the reader, the family is not aware of how these skill sets can be used to their fullest potential when they cannot leave their dwelling. Evar, unfortunately, has no special area or abilities that he has mastered (that he can remember) and has to resort to being the second best in all of the proficiencies mentioned above.
Livira, whose name means weed, is a stubborn and inquisitive young child when the book commences. She lives in a settlement within the Dust, outside the city of Crath’s walls. These desert villages are a dangerous place to occupy, with harsh environments that include dust-bears, dust-storms, and there is the threat of sabbers: the dog-like race that are imposing, agile, and despise humans.
The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is the 11th Mark Lawrence book that I have read and, unless I am mistaken, is the first novel he has written where we follow two point-of-view perspectives; those indicated above. Both viewpoints are intriguing to follow as the mysteries of Crath, the dust, the grand library, and the wider world are unravelled to the reader. Evar and Livira are immensely likeable too and deliver frequent well-crafted moments of humour and wit. Furthermore, through their thoughts, we are presented views on a sizeable and varied dramatis personae. Honourable mentions for supporting characters go to the librarian Yute, the soldier Malar, vengeance-driven Clovis, and Wentworth the humungous cat.
The Book That Wouldn’t Burn has a tendency to be thrilling and slickly paced, sprinkled with unforeseeable twists and some romantic undercurrents. In addition, it presents a clever almost science-based magic system that has clear rules and consistency. Elements such as ghosts, time travel, world-hopping, library beings that may transcend time, and a book that will not burn will give an idea of some of the concepts featured here. That is before we take into consideration a gargantuan legendary mysterious library: labyrinthine, complex, possibly moving, and otherworldly in nature with impassable passages.
This, the first entry in The Library Trilogy, is Lawrence’s best-written novel, with the author’s love of language, libraries, books and literature apparent. Some of his phrases about fiction and knowledge are like warm hugs to a book lover.
After collecting my thoughts for a couple of days, I am content to judge that The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is the author’s most ambitious, polished, and rewarding-to-read work to this date. It ends neatly and in fascinating fashion answering questions I did not even know I had, demanding to be re-read almost straight away.
I received a review copy from Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review.