The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
Final Verdict: 2.75 out of 4.0
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.
The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard is a supernatural mystery thriller, written especially for book lovers. John Campelli, a promising young lawyer in Copenhagen, is brought back to his family’s home town and his father’s elegant, antique book store, Libri di Luca, after his father, Luca, dies under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly, despite John’s better judgment, he is drawn into a vast, dangerous war between factions of “Lectors” – persons who have magical reading or receiving abilities. These Lectors can enhance a story’s potential, simply by reading it aloud. Scenes come to life – imagery blazes in the mind, blurring the lines between reality and imagination. The more powerful Lectors can influence others’ actions, simply by reading aloud to them – from planting subliminal messages to causing one to commit suicide. All of this is news to John but, as it turns out, there is even more to the story, as the two factions of Lectors soon discover. John’s latent abilities are awoken and he proves to be one of the most powerful Lectors in history. In short time, a deep, hidden cult, as old as the ancient Library of Alexandria, seeks him out and hopes to use his powers to super-amplify their own, in hopes of taking over the world by controlling its leaders. John and his colleagues from Libri di Luca must find a way to stop this powerful shadow organization, without knowing who they are, what they want, or where they come from.
3 – Characters well developed.
While some may have been lost in translation (literally), in general the characterization in this novel was quite good. A few of the major characters, like John and Katherina, have major conflicts to resolve, with the help (or hindrance) of minor characters surrounding them. John, for instance, comes to realize his true calling through the help of Katherina and Iversen, two of the remaining employees at Libri di Luca. While none of the characters have grand epiphanies, such as the “bad” guy realizing the error of his way and fighting for good in the end, there is still sufficient back-story to explain some of the “why” factors for each characters’ decisions. The villain(s) is/are not immediately apparent, either. Some of the obvious antagonists and heroes will have the reader guessing, while others may ultimately be just what the reader expects.
2 – Prose/Style in need of Development but works.
The book’s greatest weakness is its prose. Much of the story prattles on rather slowly, particularly for a supernatural mystery-thriller, which one would expect to move with some rapidity and suspense. There were moments of this, but they were far fewer than necessary, which causes the reader to feel disengaged or to be easily distracted. Some of this could be due to the translation to English from its original Danish. This is the first Danish novel in my repertoire, so it is difficult to comment on style without a cultural frame of reference but, for an American-English reader, it is not quite sufficient. Some of the usual literary techniques are present, such as using short sentences to reflect action or suspense, but they are often taken to the extreme. For example, much of the novel was written in these types of short-bursts, but the movement of the story was slow – so the pace and the prose did not coincide, which caused some confusion and disorientation (and even frustration, at times). Fortunately, the story itself was interesting enough, so the rather bland prose is simply an obstacle and not a kill-note.
Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.
For book lovers, The Library of Shadows is a real charmer. What could be more endearing to us than a story about the super-charged power of books and the magic of reading? Rhetorical question; obviously, the answer is “nothing!” The infusion of the supernatural in this murder-mystery thriller is an interesting twist, particularly the type of magic – which is almost an adult version of Inkheart. The political and social commentary, too, including the nature of power and the presence of organized sub-governments which control the larger political structure is a fascinating and disturbing inclusion. The brief history of the Library of Alexandria is interesting, although really just enough to whet the appetite, and the commentary on racism in Denmark was surprising and educational, as this reader was not aware that such racism (particularly anti-Muslim/anti-Islam) was present. All-in-all, The Library of Shadows is an interesting story, which could have been outstanding. If you love books in general, and are in the mood for a simple supernatural thriller, this could be a fun summer read.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School, Adult
Interest: Mystery/Thriller, Literary Mystery/Thriller, International, Bibliophiles