The Library of the Dead
by T. L. Huchu
Narrated by Tinashe Warikandwa
Series: Edinburgh Nights, Book 1
Length: 8 hrs and 9 mins
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Ghosts, Urban Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0 Overall; Content 4.5; Narration 4.5.
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu's The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
When ghosts talk
She will listen
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker - and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children - leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will rock her world.
Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies.
Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
A Macmillan Audio production from Tor Books
Ropa lives in a distressed part of a Edinburgh that includes supernatural elements. Ropa dropped out of school to earn money to take care of her grandmother and younger sister. She earns money as a ghostalker, sharing messages between the living and the dead for a fee. One ghost asks for help to find her missing son, noting that other children have disappeared too. Ropa tries to avoid the woman, who can’t pay, but other events keep bringing her back to the problem.
When Ropa begins to investigate, she finds out matters are worse that she thought. Her research leads her to an underground occult library where she is identified as having magical abilities. Ropa gets help from an old childhood friend, Jomo, and a new magical friend, Priya, as she steps into one scene of danger after another. She walks into a trap and now has to find a way out if she wants to save herself and other children.
I liked Ropa as a determined young lady and I appreciated her wise grandmother. I also really liked Priya who is wheelchair bound, a medical student and a more advanced magic trainee. Oh, I like the fox pet, River, and the surprising gift too.
The dystopian world-building is well done with two systems of magic that Ropa gets to blend. She uses music in her grandmother’s Zimbabwean magic that helps her enter the everyThere to meet with ghosts. After entering the Library of the Dead she begins to learn the more common Scottish nature of ley lines, earth elements and spells.
The story moves at a good pace as Ropa follows clues to unravel the mystery of the missing and abused children. Don’t be misled by the “horror” label. I did wonder if this might be too dark for my tastes, but not at all. It has ghosts and evil but it isn’t really horror. There is a little bit of YA recklessness, but I enjoyed the YA enthusiasm as well as the ghostly elements. I will look forward to reading more in the series and I recommend this to readers/listeners who enjoy urban fantasy.
Audio Notes: Tinashe Warikandwa is a new to me narrator and I think she did a spot-on job with this performance. I can’t say if any of the accents are accurate but they worked fine for me. Tinashe captured the youth and bravado of Ropa. I am glad that I was able to listen to this entertaining story.
Source: NetGalley 2021. This qualifies for 2021NetGalley goals.