The Library of the Unwritten in Hell was saved from total devastation, but hundreds of potential books were destroyed. Former librarian Claire and Brevity the muse feel the loss of those stories, and are trying to adjust to their new roles within the Arcane Wing and Library, respectively. But when the remains of those books begin to leak a strange ink, Claire realizes that the Library has kept secrets from Hell and from its own librarians.
Claire and Brevity are immediately at odds in their approach to the ink, and the potential power that it represents has not gone unnoticed. When a representative from the Muses Corps arrives at the Library to advise Brevity, the angel Rami and the erstwhile Hero hunt for answers in other realms. The true nature of the ink could fundamentally alter the afterlife for good or ill, but it entirely depends on who is left to hold the pen.
Author: A. J. Hackwith
Publisher: Titan Books
Series: Hell’s Library #2
Release Date: 09/02/2021
My Chosen Format: Kindle
My Rating of ‘The Archive of the Forgotten’: 3 out of 5
This is one of the more difficult reviews I have written in a while. Not so much because I’m lost at how to describe it, but because the first book in this series was one of my favourite fantasy books of 2020, and this never even felt like it threatened to get close to the enjoyment levels of the first book.
I say this is difficult because it wasn’t enjoyable enough to score too well and I also didn’t find it unenjoyable enough to score too poorly. That’s why I have settled on a three, however I’d lean more towards the lower end of the three star mark than the higher.
One of my main concerns about this was the pacing. For the first 25-30% very little happens other than the discovery of the ink mentioned in the blurb. When events lead to an ‘well, stuff just happened, so things are about to rocket off like they did in the first book’ kind of feeling, we are greeted by … not a great deal. I’d describe the bulk of the first portion of the book as Brevity stood around either thinking about her feelings or talking about her feelings. She then tags out for Claire to do pretty much the same. Hero, never to be outdone spends numerous portions of numerous chapters just thinking about his feelings and continually saying how he’s a villain … when the extent of his villainy is a bit of corny banter here and there.
We also have the most shoe-horned love sub-plot between two characters that, on one page have nothing but ill-feelings for each other and, a chapter or so later without any build whatsoever, are suddenly pretty much in love with each other. Even one of the characters says something like ‘be gentle, we can all see how you feel for so and so and how they feel about you.’ No. We can’t. They literally were thinking nothing kind towards each other before some randy school yard fascination took over. It felt like I was being forced to accept that two characters, who had no reason to like one another, suddenly had a deep yearning for each other. I’d almost be able to accept that if it was left to fester in the background, but it soon took centre stage and felt like it was getting more stage time than the negative aspects of the novel that were occurring.
I enjoyed the different realm aspects of the first book and was glad that said feature was involved in this one. I do feel more could have been done to highlight these parts, as they felt a little quick or solely absorbed on one aspect. A bit of exploration would have been cool, but there are loads of different realms to get to and I imagine such places will become more fleshed out in future books.
As the book drew near the end I also felt myself groan a little. It picked up and got pretty dark and interesting after a certain part happened but it never felt like it was capable of maintaining that. It tried, but little inconsistencies kept tripping it up and taking me away from where I wanted to be as far as immersion went. One aspect of this was how nobody knew anything (absolutely anything) about what was going on, but when they got near the end they had a little chat, where they each said a paragraph or two, explaining what was going on … I mean, for a group of clueless people to suddenly flip a few pages and be experts on the subject felt a bit half-hearted. There was also the whole ‘Where’s so and so, they should totally pay after what they did’ which leads essentially to ‘oh, they left’. The whole thing felt quite anti-climactic and, in places quite corny.
I’ve read many books by authors and thought ‘well, they’ve set the bar pretty high, I hope they don’t trip up on the sequel’. Sadly, I feel this was one of those. Book one was so good and this just fell short of the mark by some way as far as my opinion goes. It had everything from forced love plots to characters trying to sacrifice themselves in situations where, had they waited a minute longer or just … you know … did stuff as a duo rather than throwing themselves needlessly at something, everything would have went swimmingly. The last part I mentioned felt kind of noble the first time, but I couldn’t help but role my eyes after the third or fourth time.
Still, my gripes aside, I don’t feel in was an entirely unenjoyable book and I will be carrying on with the series as and when it’s published as I feel this was more of a blip than par for the course.