The Library of the Dead
Edinburgh Nights, Book #1
By T.L. Huchu
ISBN # 9781250767769
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Omar
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
When ghosts talk, she will listen…
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.
The Library of the Dead starts with Ropafadzo “Ropa” Moyo, a fifteen-year-old ghostalker, a person that relays messages from the deceased to their families for a payment, arriving at the house of an older couple to help them. After talking to the ghost, and helping the couple have a conversation with it, they manage to solve its unfinished issues and make it leave. On her way home, we learned that Ropa hasn’t had the luckiest life and she is the sole provider for her family: Grandma and younger sister. Her Grandma was the person who taught her all she knows, but now that she is older and gone blind, Ropa takes care of her as she did for her and her sister.
While trying to work and deliver messages for the dead, Ropa meets the ghost of Nicola who is trying to find her son. While Ropa doesn’t work pro-bono, after Nicola’s insistence, she decides to help her find her son Oliver.
What starts as a missing case, Ropa’s journey takes her deeper into the underworld of Edinburgh, its gangs and high society individuals, and the graveyards. But most of all, this missing boy case leads Ropa to the Library of the Dead and her getting a library card.
I liked the character of Ropa and her personality that tries to keep her family safe and give them all the financial support that she can, but she still has principles and tries to help Nicola. It was interesting how she used the Mbira to channel her powers to talk with the ghost.
In the case of the supernatural theme, the story had many subplots to work with and took Ropa through a variety of small quests to find the villain’s hiding place and the missing kids. This is the first book in the series, so its job is to set up the world-building and the hidden main plot of the story. Some readers will think the narrative is going on different paths, but if you stick to the end, it all meets.
One thing that I liked about this type of fantasy or supernatural genres is the alternate universe that they create. In the case of The Library of the Dead, the history of Scotland changed after the events of the Troubles and magic is present in people’s everyday life in this world.
While I know it is part of the narrative and it shows the age and lifestyle of the characters, it took me a while to understand the slang that Ropa and her friends used, and it hurt my eyes to read the text message between her and Jomo.
As a reader, you can see early on who will be the characters that will be important for the storyline and that we may be seeing later on in the upcoming books. I’m interested to know who the Tall Man that the villains kept mentioning is, and what importance does Sir Callander has in Ropa’s life.
I liked the concepts of learning magic in this series, how elemental magic is taught by Ropa’s Grandmother, and the magic books she reads along with the narrative. In the end, I think she is going to blend both of the teachings she learned and understand what Gran was talking about.
I wonder if Ropa’s sister, Izwi, will have some abilities like her and her Gran.
I recommend you read The Library of the Dead, by author T.L. Huchu. In this new story, a girl who listens to the messages of the ghost and delivers them for a fee takes on the task to hunt down a missing child that others have forgotten.