Friday, June 22, 2018

The Forbidden Library #1 by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library (The Forbidden Library, #1)My name is Alice, and I used to think fairies were make-believe. That’s back before my father disappeared, and I've come to live with my "uncle". I wasn't supposed to enter his strange library, but I was shocked by what I found. Talking cats guarding the building, an evil fairy, and a young boy named Isaac who says he's a Reader. I didn't know what that meant until I found myself trapped inside a prison-book. I've learned that I too am a Reader and can gain power from the words found in books! I don't fully understand how my life has changed, but other people are trying to control. Mother, a cat magically guarding the library, wants me to find a book called The Dragon to keep it away from my uncle. Mother has said he can't be trusted and that his kindness will lead to violence and killing. 

I randomly found this book in my local library's catalog. As with many middle grade novels, the main character learns she has untapped powers that can disrupt the current world. Alice is pulled into prison-books where she gains abilities of the dangerous creatures she defeats. It’s fun to anticipate how she’ll use them to overcome future challenges. She also doesn't master the powers right away and must negotiate them. She displays empathy for the creatures which complicates her role as a Reader, since most Readers are violent and ruthless. Alice prefers to force the prison-book creatures to submit rather than kill them. Not easy to do when those same creatures are trying to destroy her. Alice’s ability to control swarmers (I pictured them as small kiwi birds with needle-sharp beaks) is her main weapon during most of the plot, and it becomes more developed along the way. It's unclear which characters can be trusted, and Alice's kindness is tested at every turn. Her mentor seems nice enough, but she's warned that he's the worst Reader of them all. While finding The Dragon is important, it isn't the story's climax; Alice still wants to find out what happened to her father and must pursue other secret missions to discover useful information.

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