The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu
Teen/Young Adult | Mystery/Fantasy/Magical Realism
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
"Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will rock her world.
Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies.
Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?" - NetGalley
Thank you to NetGalley for gifting me the electronic copy of The Library of the Dead! The book seemed so intriguing that I decided to purchase the print copy and the audiobook to do a buddy read with my mom.
This book is creative and unique! Ropa lives in what seems to be a future Edinburgh after its resistance to English rule. Many people live in camps or rundown homes on local farmer's land and officers patrol the streets on foot, rather than in cars. Ropa lives with her Gran and little sister and carries on her family's work of carrying messages for the dead as well as helping them move on⏤for a fee, of course.
The description paints Ropa as pragmatic, but I wasn't expecting such depth of personality within a relatively short fantasy book. Her emotional maturity from past trauma and current circumstances blend realistically with her teenage mind as she finds herself in dangerous positions despite her planning. Huchu perfectly captures this voice and brings the atmosphere to life.
Something I really love about the spiritual element of this book is how closely it resembles my Caribbean culture's spiritual beliefs in helping souls cross over and communicating with the dead. I know this isn't just a Caribbean thing, but it has always been present in conversations I listened to while growing up.
Despite the book's name, the main characters don't actually spend much time in the Library of the Dead. That threw me off a bit but I am willing to disregard that because Huchu managed to deliver twists and turns that I couldn't predict time and again. My rating is a reflection of that and my hope that this book is just the beginning of a series because it left me with more questions than answers.
I'd recommend this book to anyone ages 13 and up who enjoys ghost stories, fantasy, and adventure. Please note that Ropa uses profanity throughout the book and there are multiple references to sex and a red light district.