Book Review: The Forbidden Library

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy

When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.


Last year I was introduced to Django Wexler's adult flintlock fantasy The Thousand Names and nominated as one of the best debut of 2013. I thoroughly enjoyed it and soon learned that Django Wexler was writing a children's book. I was stoked with this news but also had some reservations, since turning from a gritty epic flintlock fantasy to a children's story can be quite a challenge. Well, Django Wexler does an amazing job, The Forbidden Library is a awesome adventurous children's story. Django Wexler shows that he has an amazing talent when it comes down to writing, it are two completely different voices but both just as great.

In The Forbidden Library you follow the story of the young girl Alice. In the beginning of the story Alice looses her father in a accident. However shortly before he father departs on his journey, Alice hears her father talking in their library and when she eavesdrops the conversation she sees that he is talking with a fairy. The conversation between her father and the fairy doesn't go in a friendly manner as their is some arguing. Alice's father doesn't know that she witnessed this conversation, and departs on his journey but doesn't come back. Now Alice is all on her own, having no way to go, until she is adopted by her Uncle Geryon, one uncle that she can't recall having heard of earlier... As soon as Alice starts living with Geryon several things do become clear... the world that Alice previously thought of suddenly expands when she gets to learn what secrets reside in the amazing library of Geryon. 

Storywise, The Forbidden Library shows that it is really a first book in a series. From the first page Django Wexler focuses a lot on exposing and building the setting that he wants to bring over to its readers in his book. Soon after Geryon and Alice get acquainted, Geryon reveals that he is a Reader, and that Alice also has the power to become a powerful Reader. Now you might ask, what is a Reader? As a Reader you are able to magically enter books and talk and interact with what ever is in there, however there is also a much dark side to it, one that Alice learns about first hand... These books also serve as prisons and when you have just entered a horror story, things can be quite difficult when the only way to leave the book is to defeat the evil at hand... A reader can also grow in power when it has defeated a creature in a book as, the Reader is then able to sort of "consume" those powers and use them for themselves. It's might sound a bit complex for younger readers, but Django Wexler keeps it simple and explains it in an easy and understandable way. I just know a lot of young kids will enjoy this. The Reader aspect it the first that is tackled in the storyline as it has a high emphasis all throughout the book.

The second aspect that I readily enjoy reading about in a children's book is of course how the protagonist develops along the way. And this is exactly what Django Wexler does for Alice. It's her personal journey of discovery and development and coming to understand what she is and can do. In her journey she is accompanied by talking cats! How cool is that! Next to the talking cat Ashes, Alice also meets up with another Reader, Simon. Simon first starts of as a friend to Alice but just like the Library they venture in, Simon is also full of surprises!

Like I mentioned above children's book require an easily relatable protagonist. As far as characterization goes, Alice is just spot on. Django Wexler shows her as a confident and determinded young girl who doesn't shy away from getting facing her fears. Being new to being a Reader, Alice constantly faces challenges that she has to overcome. I do have to say that showing a confident young girl can go either to ways, over the top or a gradual transition. Luckily Django Wexler chose a gradual transition for Alice's character, you really do see her grow all throughout the story, you see her shine in her high moments and feel sad for her when she has her sad moments. She also has a lot of virtues that will undoutbely speak to the young adventurous reader! Besides Alice there are a few other characters that you meet along the way, I have already mentioned the talking cats and Simon but there are also the more evil adults like Geryon and Mr. Black who make the life of Alice hard. Again Django Wexler shows just how to portray these evil adults in a great manner, again not over the top but by several actions of them you really start to shout at them from stop being so mean to Alice! Just what I have come to learn from The Thousand Names, the characterization of Django Wexler is just spot on. 

Django Wexler ends his book on a interesting promise that will get you readily excited for the sequel, though unfortunately I can't find an release that yet, I do hope it comes soon! The Forbidden Library is an exciting addition to the growing children's fiction list. It has already been compared to pretty big names such as Harry Potter and Inkheart and I feel that I do have to say that I second those opinions. There are also some beautiful illustrations in the book that only further bolster the magical feeling that The Forbidden Library breathes and I am already keeping my fingers crossed to see this book be made into either a tv-series or movie. I know a lot of young kids will enjoy to see the adventures of Alice! Furthermore Django Wexler shows that he is an author to watch out for, having written a stellar debut in the flintlock fantasy with The Thousand Names and now an outstanding children's book with The Forbidden Library, he is definitely on my must read list. 

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