Haly is a Libyrarian, one of a group of people dedicated to preserving and protecting the knowledge passed down from the Ancients and stored in the endless maze of books known as the Libyrinth. But Haly has a secret: the books speak to her.
When an attack by the hostile Eradicants drives her from her home, Haly learns that things are not at all what she thinks they are. Taken prisoner by the Eradicants, who believe the written word to be evil, she sees the world through their eyes and comes to understand that they are not the book-burning monsters that she has known her entire life.
The words of a young girl hiding in an Amsterdam attic and written hundreds of years before Haly's birth will spark the interest of her captors and begin the change necessary to end the conflict between the Eradicants and Libyrarians. With the help of her loyal companion Nod, a creature of the Libyrinth, Haly must mend the rift between the two groups before their war for knowledge destroys them all. In doing so, Haly's life--and the lives of everyone she knows--will never be the same.
Although Pearl North (Anne Harris) is not new to the science fiction or fantasy genre Libyrinth is her first YA novel and let me just say that I want more please! In this fast-paced adventure, North’s prose, characterization and message shines.
The first of many striking features in Libyrinth is North’s extraordinary world building. Anyone who loves books will be enchanted. Through her use of vivid details and the preponderance of quotes from a variety of books, the world came to life for me. I found myself emotionally involved with the quest to save the Libyrinth from the Eradicates, who believed that once a word is written it is dead, murdered and the only way to free the words is to burn them. Another aspect of North’s world building that appealed to my love of science fiction is the technology, which drives the conflict and makes for a very exciting climax. Finally, this is a fully featured world with differing cultures, history, and religious beliefs. If for no other reason, Libyrinth’s dystopian world in and of itself is well worth the read.
I was also quite taken with North’s characterization. I loved all three of female protagonists and the fact that each one contributes to the plot line in very different ways. Haly, a clerk to Libyrarian Selene, is able to hear books. She is shy and always examines her words carefully before speaking because no one believes she can hear the books. That is until she is caught by the Eradicants and becomes their Redeemer, the liberator of dead words. Through her interaction with the enemy she learns that their ideas, while vastly different from the Libyrarians, have value too. Her friend, Claudia, a kitchen servant, is outspoken, brave and an accomplished gossip. Her loyalty to Haly is one of many traits that made her my favorite character. Finally, Selene is a natural leader, with a rational voice, and I really want to hear more from this strong intelligent young woman.
In addition to North’s fantastic world building and characterization, the book’s message is illuminating. While on the surface, the story talks about censorship, there is a deeper message about the power of words and how knowledge should be free to all who want it. The struggle then is as old as time, those with knowledge have the ability to enslave those who do not, and thus, literacy is the best weapon against tyranny.
While many of the reviews I read about this book felt the book had too much extraneous information, I unconditionally accepted and enjoyed the world North built. And although Libyrinth works as a stand alone novel, this is the first of a trilogy, and I am excited that I will once again get to journey back to and learn more about this strange new world.