The Forbidden Library is a novel that makes the magic of reading literal. Filled with talking cats, untrustworthy fairies and books that contain new worlds, it’s a thrilling wish fulfilment of a novel for any child who has ever wished they could really escape into the book that they’re reading.
Alice lives a quiet, study filled life with her father, until one day she hears him being threatened by a fairy. After his suspicious reported death, she is shipped off to live with a relative she’s never heard of, with his mysterious, forbidden library in the woods. When an encounter with talking cat Ashes gets her inside the library and into a room filled with mysterious books, she realises she has a special talent – she is a Reader who can enter the world of magical books. Her guardian begins to train her as his apprentice, but Alice, determined to find out if her father is really alive, has to chose who she can trust – Ashes, fellow reader Isaac, the mysterious guardian of the Library called Ending, or her new Master.
Alice is a wonderful heroine – a slightly more domesticated version of Lyra Silvertongue. Having always followed the rules, she is thrust into a bewildering new world and embraces its challenges. The world of the magical books is also convincingly built, with prison books and world books among the variety, not to mention the coveted Dragon book. The true delight comes from the creatures that Alice gains the power to use in the real world, and this also allows Alice to grapple with her beliefs about power and death. At times the pace can drop, making the reader long for Alice to enter another book, but the ending is certainly thrilling and readers will be keen to know what happens next.