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Book Review: Make way for “The Library of the Dead” and a new voice in fantasy

With each passing year, the literary world is blessed with more diverse stories and voices, and we’re certainly basking in the talent and new worlds to discover.

T.L. Huchu’s “The Library of the Dead,” out in June 2021, is a wonderful addition to the small (and very white) genre of contemporary fantasy. Ropa Moyo’s seemingly normal life as a ghostalker in Edinburgh is upended when the dead start spinning terrifying tales of kidnapped and bewitched children.

Ropa’s action-packed quest to find the origins of the bewitchments leads her to a mysterious library, a run-in with a murderous milkman, a haunted house, and plenty of ghosts along the way.

Usually, I’m not one to gravitate toward first person narration, but Ropa’s perspective is equal parts hilarious and relatable as she traverses Edinburgh’s paranormal underground. At times, there are long streams of Ropa’s consciousness that are seemingly unnecessary to the story, but nevertheless Ropa’s witty inner dialogue delights readers as she narrates the crazier events in the novel.

What I wasn’t expecting was how action-packed “The Library of the Dead” was. It’s deceiving title led me to believe Ropa would be playing detective and exploring the shelves of the library rather than exploring the streets of Edinburgh. From dealing with unruly ghosts to a kidnapping involving a haunted house, there’s no short of action in Huchu’s novel.

The magic Huchu weaves into the novel is unlike any I’ve read before and it takes a diverse and realistic approach in comparison to other contemporary fantasies. Ropa’s Zimbabwean magic is illustrated beautifully and connects her Scottish upbringing without all the frills of other magic systems. Her Zimbabwean magic is a delightful change in the contemporary fantasy genre, where every author is either trying to recreate the Harry Potter or Shades of Magic series. Nothing wrong with that, but hey, the literary world needs more diverse voices and I’m tired of reading about the same white kids learning magic!

Despite these upsides, I found “The Library of the Dead” started off slow, but after the first 150 pages, the story pace picked up exponentially. By the time the primary issue and climax was revealed, it felt very rushed and haphazardly thrown into the plot. The magical kidnappings didn’t hold the importance I felt the story needed or was trying to achieve, which led me to being disinterested by the last quarter of the novel.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Huchu’s hilariously relatable voice and Ropa’s cynical musings throughout the novel. I have high hopes for the next installment of the series, but I sincerely hope I won’t feel as winded as this first novel left me.

Follow me on Instagram @bergreadstoomuch for more!


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