As I got quite bored while reading An Enchantment of Ravens last year, I had no intentions of reading this book. But then my favorite reviewers started gushing about it and I started thinking too. The premise of Great Libraries and monstrous books was a lure I couldn’t resist and I’m sooooo glad I didn’t try to. This is one book I can very confidently say that I would’ve regretted not reading.
I’m just so glad that the author wrote this book. The world of Austermeer has sorcerers who can access magic by binding themselves to demons, and can create grimoires using all kinds of grotesque human remains. The Wardens on the other hand have the duty to protect all these magical grimoires from the world outside and vice versa. The writing and world building is beautiful and vividly descriptive, while also being very easy to read. The author also manages to give us a sense of the world and it’s magic system and makes it believable to us in just this one standalone book, and I really appreciate that. Reading this amazing book in the midst of all fantasy series is truly like a breath of fresh air. The story is full of wonder and adventure interspersed with delightful humor and it makes for a wonderful reading experience. But the best part of this book was just the sheer love of books and knowledge that reflected off of the pages. The way the grimoires are depicted as beings capable of feelings, their interactions with the main character and even the actions that they are capable of, are a joy to read about and I was just in awe of the way it’s all written. I cried over these beautiful monstrous magical books, so you can probably tell how much I loved it all.
Elisabeth is just amazing and I’m in love. She is very intelligent but also a bit innocent initially because she has a very black and white view of her world, having grown up all her life in the Great Library among the tomes. But her love of these books and the way she understands them and interacts with them is so palpable that I could feel it in my bones. She also has a very innate sense of duty and will do anything to protect the world and her bookish companions, even unlearning all that she has been taught and realizing some new truths on her own. She is also a fighter and never backs down from what she believes is the right thing to do and I totally admired her for it all. Nathaniel on the other hand is a sorcerer, whom she doesn’t trust in the beginning because of his magical abilities and his demonic servant Silas. He is broody and grumpy, but we quickly realize that he is dealing with a lot of things from his past and just trying to keep everyone away from him as a defense mechanism.
I enjoyed the way their relationship developed so much. They start out as almost enemies, though that’s mostly on her side and then become unlikely allies, slowly transforming into friends and more. It’s a very beautifully written slow burn romance and it made me feel all kind of feelings ❤️❤️❤️. Alongside this developing dynamic, we also see both of them dealing with their individual traumas and i thought that was handled so sensitively. Elisabeth has nightmares from when she was mentally violated, while Nathaniel is deeply affected by his family’s death and legacy of being necromancers. Their traumas manifest in different ways and they have different ways of handling them, but it gives them a unique understanding into each other and I think it was another reason why they could connect with each other so well. He also mentions in a throwaway line that he likes both boys and girls, and while I actually loved that myself, I’m not sure how the readers who identify as bi/pan would feel about it because the representation is never expanded upon.
While I loved both the main characters a lot, the demonic servant Silas was just special. He is a highborn demon who makes sure to keep informing Elisabeth that he is dangerous and doesn’t know kindness or compassion, but he is such an antithesis to all he is supposed to be. He really cares for the both of them and the way he goes about showing it all is truly beautiful and I was so emotional about many things that happened. I can promise you that if you read the book, he will leave you in tears. Elisabeth’s best friend Katrien doesn’t get a lot of page time but I thought she was a very naughty character, with an inherent propensity to get into all kinds of trouble. She also encourages Elisabeth to get into some troubles of her own and it was lovely to see such a nice friendship. She is also hinted at probably being aromantic but it’s never expanded upon. The villain of the story is also a very multidimensional, with his own motivations for his actions and struggling with his family legacy. So while we mostly hate him, we also understand him in a way and I thought the author did a wonderful job there.
To conclude, I am only gonna say that if you love and live books, then this standalone fantasy is tailor made for you. This is full of adventures, action, banter, magical books with feelings and compassionate demons, and it will delight you every step of the way. It made me very happy and emotional, I even cried at parts I never thought I would and I highly highly recommend it. And I totally wouldn’t mind if the author wants to turn this into a series, because I don’t wanna leave this world at all. If you aren’t picking this up immediately, you really are missing out.