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Magazines > Marketing Library Services > July/August 2016

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MLS - Marketing Library Services
Vol. 30 No. 4 — Jul/Aug 2016
Books: YA, Fantasy, Horror
by Ruth Kneale

Here are short reviews of three recent books about some very different kinds of librarians. One is YA, one is fantasy, and the last is horror, and all three are good reads.

In The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, by Jen Swann Downey, a young woman stumbles (literally, through a hole in the floor) into the temporally hidden headquarters of a secret society of “sword-swinging, karate-chopping, crime-fighting warrior librarians.” Their job is to protect both words and history. Petrarch’s Library contains portals to different times and places, and the Lybrarians (including Hypatia of Alexandria and Cyrano de Bergerac ) use those portals to save writers whose words and works are world-changing but in danger. It’s a fun read. I must admit that Moe the angry ferret was a favorite. I recommended it.

I’ve written about Jim C. Hines’ Magic Ex Libris series before; now book four, Revisionary, is out. The earlier books saw Isaac Vainio beginning to realize his power as a libriomancer (one who can use any book’s contents in reality) and his place within the Porters, who are guardians of magic. After being magically crippled by Gutenberg in the previous book, Unbound, Vainio now struggles to fit back into his life and world, and he fails utterly. The secret is out; the government wants to jail anyone who can do magic; and a coalition of magical creatures and ex-Porters wants war—and they all want Vainio. Meanwhile, he has learned of a new, even more powerful form of libriomancy that could change the world. This is a well-written, utterly engaging series that I highly recommend.

Our final book is The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins. In this world, an entity known only as Father kidnapped 12 young children and raised them himself, “in the old ways, as I myself was trained,” as “Pelapi,” an old word meaning librarian and pupil. In the library, each of the Pelapi is in charge of a particular catalog, such as languages, war and murder, animals, healing, and mathematics. Each is made to immerse himself or herself in the assigned catalog but is not allowed to look at materials from any other catalog (or risk punishment). But then Father disappears, and things get really weird: “[W]hoever claims [the library] will also inherit absolute power over life, death, and all of creation.” It has horror, humor, suspense, romance, and psychopathic librarians. I highly recommend it, albeit not to the squeamish.

Ruth Kneale is the systems librarian for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope project in Tucson, Ariz. She is fascinated by how librarians are portrayed in modern life, and she has a website dedicated to that topic at Her email address is .

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