Book: Libyrinth (Libyrinth #1) by Pearl North
Publisher: Tor Teen, 2010
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Bibliomania
Source + Date Read: Purchased + Jan. 2013
Recommend: For all the readers who like to read about books, with a touch of fantasy and a truly imaginative tale. This book is truly diverse featuring characters with a range of ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders.
Book Pro’s: Amazing theme, use of strong female characters, diversity widely accepted and promoted in the book.
Book Con’s: Stunted characters.
I think the cover is moody, atmospheric and very brown. Which makes it a bit muddy, but hey, we get to see the main character, Haly, and the little imp, Nod. Mind you, it scared me when I realised what the hell that red devil looking thing was.
Set in a futuristic, imaginative world, Libyrinth details a series of city states that coexist with each other and the greatest honor is to become a Libyrarian, or a scholar really. Books are heralded as living things and precious to be hold, something that causes much strife with enemies of the Libyrarian’s, the Singers, who believe that the written word is a murdered word and something to be destroyed. But is everything as it seems? What do the Singers carry out by burning books? Is their mandate to spread illiteralism? Why don’t the Libyrarians share the ability to read?
The flawed characters are the greatest problem in the book. Readers hardly get a chance to get to know each character or understand their personalities, loves, hates and drives. As a result, you don’t really care what happens to each character, or yearn to know what happens next.
Review: My first read in 2013! I’ve craved this book for so long. I have a weakness for something that has a touch of bibliomania, or books about books. In short, I thought this book was good-great, it has the potential to be fully great, to be amazing and stunning, a work of true poetry. Unfortunately, North doesn’t push the limits or boundaries enough, and the book is on the cusp of greatness, the edge of the cliff but, it just falls a bit flat at the last-minute.
North is the master of dualities in this book, she makes strong philosophical references to the fight between good versus evil, us versus them and familiar versus different. This is very refreshing, as it adds depth to the story and Libyrarian transcends itself from a simple YA book to a story with a bit of substance. One such binary that I found particularly intriguing was North’s creation of the Libyrarian versus the Singers. As an anthropology student I was overjoyed to read that North was giving readers the opportunity to think about knowledge, what it is, where it comes from and most of all, does this knowledge give us power? The Libyrarian had the power to read, however, they lived without electricity and weren’t able to interpret or apply the knowledge they had due to their lack of resources and tools. The ‘illiterate‘ Singers, had the resources and abilities to use machines, and understand their environment- all from their ability to pass down knowledge in songs and oral tradition. As a result, each side saw each other as the ‘barbarians’ of society, unable to ascend to their truest form of enlightenment. I call that some Darwinian bull-shit but it is what our society is based on.
Something else that was extremely refreshing in Libyrinth is North’s inclusion of diversity. Homosexuality is referenced and not a big deal, to this I say HOORAH! We need more books where diversity is championed as a normal way of life. Also, ethnicity isn’t explicitly discussed in the book, however, Haly is described as biracial (something that I am biased over, as I am biracial as well), and the characters skin tones range from dark to olive to pale and freckled. Not bad for a fantasy book right? Did I also mention that gender doesn’t seem to be a big thing? Though the Ilysian clearly prefer women (Po describes himself as wanting to sire good daughters, wow) and the Singers prefer men (on the basis that their god, Yammon, was a man, I smell paralleling with life!)
This books is beautiful for its subtext, though Libyrinth‘s execution left me wanting. I mentioned above that the characters are flat, very one-dimensional and rushed. As a result, it is very hard to develop a bond with the people we meet along the way. Yet, the promise of greatness, being on the edge of that cliff, I think justifies the story’s rating of 4-Page-Turns.
This book is 1st in the Libyrinth series. I can’t wait to start the rest of the books!
In her debut novel, Pearl North takes readers centuries into the future, to a forgotten colony of Earth where technology masquerades as magic and wars are fought over books.- (GdRd)