The Book That Broke The World (The Library Trilogy Book 2) by Mark Lawrence (book review).

Once upon a time, there were two brothers. Irad built a library that spans both the world and time to house all the knowledge of all races, so that memory could be immortal and teach fragile flesh. His brother, Jaspeth, sought to tear Irad’s creation down. How, he asked, can wisdom be found without experience? Their battle has been fought for millennia thanks to their chosen champions. Now it is time for the fate of the library to be decided.

Celcha and Hellet’s people may have come from the moons, but they have lived their lives as slaves, digging into the cities of previous civilisations. Evar and Clovis have finally found an escape from the library that trapped them and kept them safe their entire lives. Livira and Arpix have both found their way to the library’s learning and curiosities, only to see their world come crashing down around them. These six hold the fate of the library in their hands, separated by species and time.

You remember what happened in book 1, ‘The Book That Wouldn’t Burn’, right? That’s good, because this sequel isn’t going to slow down for you. The scant few pages of reminders about book 1, along with a list of characters, barely scratch the surface of what is going on. In book one, there are only two points of view from two different species. Book two, ‘The Book That Broke the World’, splits into four points of view across three different species. As for what timeline everyone is from or in? It all became a blur that I accepted as the future and the past are basically the same thing, with both observing and influencing the other, assisted or hindered by the strange white assistants of the library, who exist outside of time yet meddle almost as much as the mortals as they try to prevent future meddling, or perhaps it’s past meddling they’re trying to avoid? I had to keep reading because I didn’t know how this series would end, however complicated and confusing it is. At this point, I have no idea what might even look like a happy ending, but I think maybe (I hope?) I will see one.

The library is the central pillar of this series and its universe. It is the one constant that withstands everything: war, genocide, the best and worst of intentions, and alien invasion. Even against time. Even as it begins to crack, that just underlines the certainty that the library will continue to be eternal and infinite, as it always has been and will be. The idea of the library ceasing to exist would topple this world. Is this Jaspeth’s ultimate plan? Can people survive without their foundation?

While the enormity of the library is clear in my mind, the character’s physical shape is more tenuous. Author Mark Lawrence has once again limited his physical descriptions just enough to blur some significant differences between the species. They are just people, and then you realise that people don’t necessarily mean humans. This is especially true when a character hails from the moon and exhibits vividly detailed physical issues with the planet’s atmosphere. The fact that this lovely teaching moment remains unmentioned may enhance its potency.

I eagerly anticipate the release of the final book in this trilogy. I intend to binge-watch the entire series in a single sitting, as if it were the most recent streaming phenomenon. There is so much going on that I’m not sure I can handle pauses between installments. By treating this trilogy like one extremely large single volume, I hope that all the intriguing, tangling threads will expand and draw together clearly. Currently, I am trying to hold onto so many slippery filaments that I’m quite certain I have no idea where the conclusion will lead me.

This is a densely packed epic that has left me pondering so many things. The work explores the connections and separations between knowledge, identity, and time. If you like Erin Morgenstern’s ‘The Starless Sea’ and ‘The Night Circus’ for their beautifully written worlds, try Lawrence’s ‘The Library Trilogy.’

LK Richardson

April 2024

(pub: Ace, Penguin USA, 2024. 384 page hardback. Price: $29.00 (US), £16.999 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-59343-794-0)

check out website: www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/690442/the-book-that-broke-the-world-by-mark-lawrence/

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