The God of Lost Words (A Novel from Hell's Library)
"‘Becoming the library, as if it were swallowing her whole . . . an infinite nothing—everything, a god—no, a place—which is it? . . . a realm, a guide, a library, a god.’"
Unwritten books. A library in hell run by librarians—Claire, head of the Arcane wing; Brevity, a muse, head librarian; Hero, a character from a book; Rami, a fallen angel; and a pack of young damsels. Joining these characters are a talking raven, a bird who flies people on its back, Vikings, heroes, and demons. Then there's Malphas, a bloodthirsty general intent on destroying the books. All characters are dead. But they seem so alive when reading this book. "The Theatre of the Absurd?" Maybe.
There is a special place in hell for the unfinished books of the world. "Maybe a library isn't defined by what it holds. Maybe it is defined by what it does." The beginning of this story shows Claire, trying to wipe off a mysterious ink into which she had fallen while Hero's book is gone. Malphas, Grandmother of Ghosts, is threatening to destroy the library if the librarian can't give her an inventory. Claire and Brevity finally discover the secret of the true nature of unwritten books that the library was hiding: "Books are made from fragments of soul. Or, at the very least, human souls and stories were made of the same stuff."
This revelation gives Hell a chance to grab the power from Claire and her friends. The library must be destroyed and rebuilt in the afterlife. Claire, Brevity, Hero, and Rami fight against Malphas and her soldiers to save every wing of the library.
The story starts when Malphas is summoning all the librarians to the high court of hell, a natural bureaucracy. An interrogator asks them to define books. "What, precisely, Librarian, are the books in your care?" Brevity refuses to divulge the secret. At this point the reader must suspend disbelief when this unwritten library has all the departments of a real one. There's a reference desk, interlibrary loans, cataloging, archives, rare books, and special collections. Malphas is angry that no proper inventory can be provided because one book is missing. It's Hero's special book. Malphas gives orders to burn the library.
Claire decides that they should all get to the Unwritten Wing and evacuate the books. The books themselves are distraught and move from side to side. However, it's too late. They already smell smoke. Claire throws herself into the fire to try to save her precious artifacts. Rami jumps into the fire and pulls her out, hand stuck to a sword and burnt to a crisp. Rami, a fallen angel, comes out unscathed. The Arcane Wing is destroyed.
Claire, Rami, Hero, and Brevity sign a pact that they will always help one another if in danger and will fight against Hell's demons to save the books. "It felt like the stacks of books released a held breath." There's a humorous scene in which Rami doesn't know what fine print is. "‘Fine print?’ Rami echoed blankly." Hero asks him if he wrote peanut and jelly. After signing, Brevity decides to make tea.
In order to save themselves from Malphas, Brevity decides that they should abandon the books to the Unwritten Wing. However, Claire states that "books can only leave by means of their human authors via muses—normally." Claire and Brevity go to Walter, named Death, to ask his advice. They decide to stage a revolution. Claire suddenly falls through the floor and is aware of shelves of books flying past her. "Becoming the library, as if it were swallowing her whole . . . an infinite nothing—everything, a god—no, a place—which is it? . . . a realm, a guide, a library, a god."
Claire realizes that the only way to save the books and artifacts is to outwit Hell and start a new realm in the afterlife. A new world without violence or revolution. This is a dangerous mission, but the four friends undertake to tackle it. Follow the four librarians on their intriguing, nightmarish and, sometimes humorous, adventures. Walls disappear, floors swallow them up, and shelves of books come crashing down. They eventually confront Bjorn the Bard whom they don't know if they could trust anymore—until they finally fall into Malphas's inner court of soldiers, dressed like noblemen. They have to make a deal with the devil in order to survive and get back to the library. "The road is an expert at torturing souls . . . It was a peculiar watercolor of emotions, having a soul."
Claire believes that stories will save the books. "It's an afterlife that requires no prayers. No offerings or vows. . . . And there are stories. So many stories. It is the myth of an endless library, a place for souls to pause, and gather themselves after death."
The God of Lost Words is the third and last book in Hackwith's trilogy, a fantasy about the Library of the Unwritten. With high flying emotion, the author has penned a testament and love letter to books, their readers, and the librarian who understands the soul of each book.