Book review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith

Title: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith

Publisher: Ace Books

Publication date: 1 October 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Adult

Page extent: 384 pages


Goodreads blurb: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth.

This book is SO. FUN. I went in thinking wow, what a cool concept, and then it nailed everything and I’m so happy that a book I was anticipating lived up to all my hopes and dreams! Not only is this a fun, queer fantasy about angels and demons and librarians, but it is funny and snarky and I loved it.

Claire is Hell’s Librarian. Controlling the Unwritten Wing, Claire manages the collection of unwritten books, those ideas that an author has not yet written. But sometimes the books come to life. Claire must then hunt down the characters who escape and bring them back to the library. When she visits Earth to track down Hero, a character who escaped to go find his author, she encounters a scrap of paper that claims to be the Devil’s bible, which of course sets off a fight between heaven and hell.

I was immediately entranced with this library and the world. The writing is beautifully detailed and made for a wonderful experience just in the prose. It felt so immersive and I often find that detailed writing like this was brings me out of a story, or makes me struggle to connect – but this definitely didn’t. It was the perfect balance between detail and drama/tension. The story is immediately mysterious and throws out several questions to keep the reader interested and reading on: What’s up with Leto’s random appearance? Why was Brevity kicked out the Muses? Why is Claire so mysterious about the previous Librarian before her? What is the Devil’s Bible? It makes for such an exciting read.

I really enjoyed the exercepts from the Librarian’s handbook at the start of each chapter. Giving insights into the workings of the library as well as hinting at past and future events, much like many more of my recent favourite reads, I love the power these give me! I love knowing things the character might not know about what’s about to happen.

One of my favourite elements was the snark. Oh my god there’s so much snarkiness, I found the writing really funny. I adore snarky, sarcastic characters and there were so many sections I laughed at, then read it immediately aloud, completely out of context, to my partner.

“Lucifer’s our ruler, not a dark wizard, Leto. You can say his name,” Claire muttered.”

I also adored, of course, how inherently queer this world and these characters were. Queerness just existed. It was brought up several times so easily – the word pansexual is used in relation to the main character ( which I think might be the first time I’ve seen that actually written and acknowledged in fantasy?!? Which is awesome?!?), then the fact Hero just openly flirts and blushes with everyone, the way Leto’s back story hints at him being with a guy, it’s just all so wonderfully done. The world also very subtly portrays an Earth that sounds like it actually improved from where we are now. Little things, like the way there’s no guns in the library because humans stopped imagining them, just made it seem a more joyful and hopeful world which I really appreciated.

Our main characters are just as fun and engaging as everything else. We have:
♥️ Claire, our no-nonsense, calm and collected (outwardly…), Librarian, who’s seemingly hiding something about her past relationship with the previous Librarian, as well as her past as an Unwritten Author herself
♥️ Leto, the demon (possibly) who delivered the instruction to go to Earth in the first place, teenage boy who doesn’t know who he is or why he’s here
♥️ Brevity, short bundle of joy in a blue skinned, green haired bundle who must learn to have faith in herself to save the library
♥️ Andras, who of course is going to be odd and eccentric and creepy when he’s called the Arcanist, the mentor figure who trained Claire after the mysterious disappearance of the previous Librarian
♥️ Hero, who I think might be my favourite because I love his sass, the escaped character from the book, who blushes when people flirt with him and learns how to love others across the book, gosh he is such a precious bean and no one must hurt him

We then have the angels, those heaven bound creatures determined to gain control of the Devil’s Bible themselves:
♥️ Ramiel, fallen angel who’s trying to use this quest to get back in the good books with God and get let back inside of heavens gates
♥️ Uriel, the face of God, justice and righteousness, and all around bitch

This unlikely ragtag team must save the library! And the world of course….that too!

The Library of the Unwritten is an absolute joy to read from start to end. I absolutely loved it (can you tell?!) and I feel like this is going to be the novel I spent all year trying to push other people to reading. It’s unashamedly queer and fresh and funny and brings a new story and twist to the library setting. Bring on the sequel!

5 thoughts on “Book review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith

  1. […] The Library of the Unwritten is one of the most fun fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Hell’s Library is the place where all unwritten manuscripts are housed. But sometimes the books come alive. When a character goes missing from one of the books, Claire, the Head Librarian, must track down the character on Earth but somehow ends up in the midst of a battle between Heaven and Hell as each searches for the Devil’s Bible. This book is an absolute riot of fun, full of snark and sass and with the first on-page pansexual rep I’ve ever read! You can read a full review here. […]


  2. […] The Library of the Unwritten is probably the fantasy that stands out the most among this list, and that’s because it has a completely different vibe and attitude to every other book on this list: this book is just pure fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book as I hadn’t heard too many people talking about it, but I expected something similar to the dark, gritty, heavy on the social commentary SFF seen on the rest of this list. But this book was so so different to that. Instead, this was filled with so much fun and humour and joy, so much sass and snark. It resulted in one of the most enjoyable reading experiences of my life because I was just so in love and so happy reading this book. It follows Claire, the librarian in Hell’s Library, a library where all unwritten manuscripts are housed. But when a character escapes from a book, Claire has to track them down and ends up in the middle of a war between heaven and hell. It’s the book about a pansexual librarian, angels and demons that you’ve always dreamed of! You can read my full review here. […]


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