A library in hell full of unwritten stories. Characters who can escape their pages and run free to seek out their authors. The concept of The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith is so utterly intriguing and charming. It’s also the perfect book for readers and booklovers, collectors and writers. Set in the unwritten wing of Hell, A.J. Hackwith introduces us to Claire Hadley, Hell’s librarian. She oversees the collection of unwritten stories, art and books from creators both long dead and living. When a young demon messenger comes to deliver the news that an unruly character escaped the library, Claire and her apprentice, a muse named Brevity, must travel to Earth and drag the character back. Once there, they stumble upon a Watcher Angel, sent to investigate the details of a mystery torn page that found its way up to heaven and find the rest of the book before it brings about an unprecedented amount of chaos and destruction to Heaven, Hell and all the realms in between.
The amount of thought and imagination that went into upholding the concept really blew me away. The world-building was truly fantastic, and I loved every glimpse of the different realms as Claire, Leto, Hero and the Unwritten crew embark on finding the pages to the Devil’s manuscript before the Angels can. The multiple perspectives helped expand the narrative as well, and provided such an interesting dynamic. Ramiel, despite being one of the obvious protagonists as an Angel against the Unwritten Crew, was as much a multifaceted character as Claire, the librarian and first point-of-view character readers are introduced to. It’s as much Ramiel’s story as it is Leto and Brevity and Claire, and I loved the layers that A.J. Hackwith built on.
I could spend hours reading about the damsel wing of the librarian and of Claire’s own unwritten stories, a whole section of books that she banished to a far corner of the library so as not to distract her. I would love to know more about all of the other librarians who came before her, including one of the first librarians mentioned in the epigraphs of each chapter. The ending felt very final but open enough that we could be treated to a companion novel. I would love to see the many ways A.J. could stretch this world, a world that is so brilliant already.
The story does suffer from being a bit overlong. There were a few moments where I couldn’t get behind Claire, who has her reasons for being a bit prickly but comes off a bit distant. The concept and the promise of the unwritten library’s mysteries kept me driven to finish it, even at times I wanted to like Claire a bit more. I definitely sympathized with her and maybe that’s another reason that I wish for a sequel or companion book so that I can read more about her after I’ve grown to like her.
Other than that, all the other characters were fantastic. Brevity, as a bubbly muse, was so fun to read and I loved Leto, a teenage demon’s dynamic with the others. Hero, the character’s escape was the impetus for Claire, Leto and Brevity’s trip to Earth was fun to read about to, another character who had hidden depths beyond his initial cheeky demeanor.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys wonderful world-building, books about books and characters with a lot of depth. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while and hopefully will have another unique novel to enjoy by A.J. Hackwith soon.