The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library - Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library is a middle grade fantasy novel about the magic of books; books that are magic and books that are not, and books with fragments of magic within.

Every so often, a particular word or phrase or sentence achieves a meaning that goes beyond the natural. If I were to look at it, I would see only dry letters on paper, but to you they would express a flicker of power.”

Alice is a Reader, which means that she has powers related to books. Prison books, portal books, books that lead to the bottom of the ocean and a hundred other things. Experienced, trained Readers use prison-books to cage up monsters; and if you’re a Reader, you can Read yourself into the book to face it. If you defeat the monster, it bends itself to your will.

If it defeats you, you die. For real, apparently.

Reading yourself into a book is wonderful, fascinating magic.

The print moved, with a crawling sensation that seemed to go straight from the page to the back of her eyeballs, and formed itself into familiar English words.
Alice read:
Alice opened her eyes in another place entirely. It was dark after the brightness of Isaac’s fire.

Her words then become reality, and Alice finds herself inside the book.

Most Readers start their training young.

“Seven!” Alice said. “You fought some kind of monster when you were seven?”
“It was only a sort of lizard-fish,” Isaac said, almost apologetic. “I hit it with a stick.”

Alice Creighton was twelve years old when she went to live with her Uncle Geryon, the owner of The Library. His house was as strange a place as his library, with invisible servants, very much like the castle in Beauty & The Beast; and as Alice sneaks around she meets a very strange cat, oddly reminiscent of the cat that another Alice in another story met. But with a different name:

“Politeness demands,” he said, “that I introduce myself. You may call me Ashes.”
“Ash?” Alice repeated.
“Ashes.” The cat bristled. “Or, in full, Ashes-Drifting-Through-the-Dead-Cities-of-the-World, but Ashes will do.”

Ashes turned out to be a watch-cat of sorts for the Library, the very place that Alice wanted above all things to enter.

Can you help me get inside?”
He gave her a long, yellow-eyed stare. “Of course.”
Alice blinked. “Really?”
“I am half cat.” He cocked his head, an oddly human gesture. “The operative question, young lady, is will I help you?”
Alice felt like giving him a kick.

For which I do not blame her in the slightest.

“Are these other worlds inside the books? Or do they exist anyway, and the book only opens a doorway to them? If nobody had written the book, would the place it goes to still exist? Or—”
“They exist,” Ashes said. “You’ll drive yourself mad thinking like that. People have, believe me. It’s like wondering whether the inside of your closet still exists when you shut the door. Keep on down that path and you end up thinking the whole universe is a dream of someone in someone else’s dream, or some such nonsense.

Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell Inception.

So there you have it. A word of warning for those who do not like to read incomplete book series: This book is not a standalone. It is the first book of a series that begins with a quest for a very special book reputably hidden in the Library, with a monster inside that is very nasty indeed; and it ends with questions from the beginning remaining unanswered, and new questions besides. Enjoy.