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The Library of Broken Worlds

The Library of Broken Worlds by Alaya Dawn Johnson from Magpie #BookReview #Fantasy #SciFi

The Library of Broken Worlds by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Magpie, HB, £12.99

Reviewed by Mikaela Silk

The front cover of The Library of Broken Worlds by Alaya Dawn Johnson. The page is golden. In the lower half of the page is a white globe and two black hands are reaching out to it.

Frieda was born deep within the tunnels of the library or made, depending on whom you ask. Only one thing is clear; the gods put her in this world for a reason. If only she knew what the reason was. The Head Librarian took Frieda in and raised her as their own child, letting her wander the tunnels she came from and asking no questions about her unusual communion with the gods. Yet only when her world is on the brink of war do the gods start revealing their true secrets to her. What Frieda does with these secrets is no one’s decision but her own, and it might be the biggest decision she has ever made.

Usually a reader of fantasy, I found the sci-fi elements of this book a bit of a tangled web to unravel. Things like ‘avatars’ and ‘wetware’ are woven tightly into the story, and I struggled to get an image of them in my head. In the beginning, this was very jarring for me and did impact my reading experience, but by the end, I found that I had come to accept their presence in the narrative even if I still didn’t fully understand them. I could also never quite work out if the gods were of the fantasy variety or some kind of super-advanced technological beings. However, this did create quite an alluring air of mystery around them.

The plot of this book is presented in a very fragmented way; easy to follow but difficult to invest in. In contrast, the main character, Frieda, was very easy to invest in. Her anxieties about her existence permeate the whole book, and it was great to see how quickly she evolved after having these questions answered. The other characters were all equally interesting, although none were explored in quite the same depth as Frieda. A third-person story about Nergui near the end of the book provided some very welcome insight into her life and gave an intriguing hint at the world outside of Frieda’s limited experiences.

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