***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato
Lately, I find myself being more and more drawn to middle grade books and I have this need to unearth all the jewels I can find. This book was one that I thought I would love. I was drawn in by the premise and was let down. What this book lacks is an execution of its premise that would blow the socks off of its readers. The premise is not the least bit lacking but the way things are built around it, those could definitely use a touch up so as to make this book the amazing thing it promises to be.
This problem is added to by the fact that this book reads like it’s aimed towards a younger audience. Some of the most obvious things to someone my age don’t seem to be obvious to Archie but I don’t know if it’s because kids in that age group are slower to make connections or if it’s just the author downsizing the book because kids are supposedly not so smart.
To me it felt like the latter. Which I don’t like. A book, no matter what age group it is aimed towards, should never feel like it’s undermining the reader’s intelligence. That’s the number one reason this book didn’t work for me. There were so many, ‘THIS IS SO OBVIOUS’ moments that just made me laugh at their obviousness and frustrated me when the characters couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Archie especially had a tendency to jump to conclusions. If this tendency were presented as a character fault instead of just something he did, I might have had a better time adjusting to it but he never seemed to realized that he had a tendency to jump to conclusions without thinking. He didn’t, in this case, learn from previous mistakes. So there wasn’t much development in his character. He was the same ‘special’ Archie he was at the beginning of the book but now he had cousins and family he was willing to be brave for.
That said, Archie was a good character. I admired his bravery, especially when he realized that being brave did not mean being fearless but rather being able to make decisions in spite of the fear. He is young and he seems to have all this responsibility thrown on him on top of the fact that he has just become aware of a whole other world. He takes this all in stride and attempts to adapt to the best of his ability. Sometimes the ease with which he adapts may seem a little far fetched but still, I cannot help but admire Archie. When he finds out that there have been secrets kept from him, he doesn’t go around demanding answers but instead seeks them himself. And he realizes when he is out of his depth and ASKS FOR HELP.
What also makes this book fun to read are the secondary characters. Old Zeb’s quirkiness never failed to put a smile to my face and I just adored how his cousins were so accepting of Archie. The relationship between the three was really fun to read about.
The best part of this book lies in the world building. I mean this is a book about people who take care of books. HOW COOL IS THAT? Throw in interesting concepts like the Great Library of Alexandria (!!!), magical books, and fantastical creatures and you have a book that could be a winner. In fact, this book would have been a winner for me if it weren’t so childish at times.
The plot also didn’t help matters. With all this awesomeness that could have been further developed, what happened instead was that everything happened in a rush. I tend to like it when my plots are well developed even if slow placed. The plot it in this book kind of just wooshed by you and you just stood there watching it fly past you wondering how you even got to this place. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, it's just that had it been slower, I would have been a much happier reader.
The thing about this book is that it would be a perfect read if you're not looking for something particularly detailed and fancy. Don't be fooled into thinking that this book is going to draw you into one of the best adventures of your life, it won't, but it'll keep you occupied for a while and you'll close the book with a smile on your face.