I was so excited to learn that Sarah Prineas – author of the Magic Thief series and the Winterling series, both middle grade, as well as Ash & Bramble and Rose & Thorn – has started a new series. Happily for me, someone nominated the first book for a Cybils award to make sure I got around to reading it.
The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas. Harper, 2018.
Alex knows he needs to be a librarian, but the librarian he tries to apprentice to won’t teach him any of the secrets Alex knows are lurking in the libraries. Instead, he gets lots of lessons on how to repair books and identify the frass of different insects. Then – quite near the beginning – the aged librarian dies. Though it looks to Alex like the book he was reading tried to kill him, of course no one will believe him. But when that librarian receives a summons to the capital, Alex decides it’s the perfect opportunity for him. What could be cooler or more important than the Royal Library?
Queen Kenneret has just outgrown her regency and is just a couple of years older than Alex. She’s working hard to prove to the kingdom that she has the maturity to rule the kingdom on her own. She still finds Alex suspicious, especially his claims that libraries are important places and that the royal library needs lots of special attention.
It’s going to take a lot of work for Alex to do his job: put frightened books that consistently put themselves in disarray back in order, track down the source of the evil magic that’s corrupting books and making them attack librarians, as well as convincing anyone at all that books – at least when they’re not murderous – have important, relevant information. There’s also someone else in the library – a room to which no one else should have the key.
There’s some cool world building here – I love magical libraries in general, and these ones, where librarians have Pages that are actual magical sheets of paper that can do small tasks and errands for the librarians, are delightful. Besides the obvious library themes, there are several mysteries, including the Alex’s past and the decline of the kingdom. There is swordplay, good character development, and a major character with a learning disability, something found much more often in real life than in literature. I enjoyed this book lots and am looking forward both to it coming out on audio so I can better share it with my children, who loved her previous middle grade works, and for the next book.
This book has been nominated for the Cybils award. This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.