I have a particular fondness for books about people who work with books—booksellers, writers and, of course, librarians. I couldn’t resist The Library of the Unwritten, subtitled “A Novel from Hell’s Library” and “Join the Library. Raise Hell.” The story is, perhaps, less outrageous and far more wise than the cover copy suggests, but it certainly features the adventures of Hell’s Librarian and her assistants.
The idea that all unfinished books are stored in a magical, boundless library is not new, nor is the idea that characters can escape from books and make trouble. Usually, though, the library is not located in Hell and overseen somewhat dangerously by Hell’s bureaucracy. And it’s usually not the job of the library staff to go chasing after characters to force them back into their books, violently if necessary.
The current Hell’s Librarian is a practical, almost prim Black woman named Claire who would be middle-aged if she weren’t dead. Her assistant is a failed Muse named Brevity, a small joke that is never actually told. There are also two demons, who may or may not be reliable, and an otherwise unnamed Hero escaped from one of the books. Pursued by angels and demons alike, they must brave Earth, Hell, and a variety of Heavens in order to recover the lost pages of a book so powerful it could destroy the balance of power between the realms–not to mention endanger the existence of the Library.