Author: Pearl North
Year Published: 2009
Synopsis: In her debut novel, Pearl North takes readers centuries into the future, to a forgotten colony of Earth where technology masquerades as magic and wars are fought over books.
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 the threat of the rival Eradicants drives her from her home, Haly learns that things are not all 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 attic—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. Haly’s life—and the lives of everyone she knows—will never be the same.
A powerful adventure that unites the present and future, Libyrinth is a fresh, magical novel that will draw in young readers of all genres.
Review: Going into this book, I figured we would just get to see a lot of the Libyrinth - a library that is literally a labyrinth. But oh my goodness, this was SO much more than that! A futuristic, fantasy world that still retains information and knowledge of the world we know that is advanced in some ways and yet archaic in others. It's the perfect combination of known and unknown, and everything about it just sings!
The world building in this book is just so so good. North managed to take things that we all know, like books and libraries and kingdoms (or queendoms) and religion and just everything and combine them into something new with hints of the old. There are quotes from every type of book, from The Diary of Anne Frank to As I Lay Dying to Charlotte's Web, as well as more obscure books I've never even heard of. I loved recognizing quotes and learning new ones, and I'm so glad an index of where they were from was included in the back. The Libyrinth is incredible, and I would love to be able to explore something like that (without the fear of getting lost, of course)!
The way the three different groups/factions were set up was really interesting too. On the one hand, there are the Ilysiens who are ruled by and have greater respect for women. Every position of authority is filled by a female. Conversely, there are the Singers, who are governed by men - every authoritative figure is a man, and women are not allowed to rise to positions of power. And then right in the middle are the Libyrarians, where men and women are treated equally. I thought it was really cool to see things from all sides of the spectrum, and to see how similar these three groups of people really are. I also liked how their religions were all very similar, but still had their differences. And it was kind of interesting to see the influence of modern-day and ancient religions intertwined with these new religions. Don't get me wrong - these religious systems are unlike any religion out there, they just have certain aspects that are reminiscent of the ones we already know.
This book is written in the third person perspective, but follows either Haly or Clauda. Both are excellent heroines who must search themselves and come to peace with their flaws before they are able to lead, but I think they both mature and develop so much over the course of the novel that they become what they need to be. Neither of them begins as a person of power - Haly is a clerk, in training to become a Libyrarian, and Clauda is nothing more than a servant. But both have destinies much greater than that, and I loved following them on their respective journeys.
The minor characters are also very well written, although some more so than others. Selene, Siblea, and Gyneth were some of my favorite supporting characters, and I loved how they were able to change their ways of thinking and were open minded enough to accept change. Other characters, like Jolaz and Orrin, were nice to see, but did not change much at all. I would have liked to have seen more from them and to learn more about their backgrounds. And I really want to know more about Nod and the imps, because they seem like so much fun. The relationships between all of the characters is dealt with very well too, and the romance doesn't feel too quick or forced.
Although I had kind of a hard time getting into the book, it really picks up after the first 50 pages or so and I found myself not wanting to put it down. There were still parts that were kind of slow or seemed like way too much information, and I did have a hard time getting through them, but then there would be a scene or two or several that would make up for it.
I would totally recommend this book to anyone looking for a great, manageable YA fantasy book. It's a quick read that doesn't get too complicated, and it could even be read and understood by a younger crowd, I think. Any lover of books would also enjoy most of this (except for the parts that are very Fahrenheit 451). I don't think this series received enough recognition when it first came out, and hopefully will become more popular now. I can't wait to continue the series with The Boy From Ilysies! 4/5