• The Good: Esoteric and epic fantasy
  • The Bad: Messy and unsatisfying
  • The Literary: A book about books, libraries, and all kinds of myths

Taryn Cornick’s first book about things that threaten libraries—insects, damp, light, fire, carelessness, and uncaring—is a success. But she’s haunted by her sister’s death and the revenge she enacted years afterward. And policeman, Jacob Berger, is suspicious about the untimely death of Taron’s sister’s murderer. A shadowy young man called Shift appears, and all three of them uncover several truths both in this world, Sidhe, and Purgatory.

The Absolute Book feels quite literary and esoteric. It concerns libraries, language, stories, and the value of human life, incorporating Celtic, Norse, Greek, and Christian myths. The book defies genres. It is at once fantasy, literary, a mystery, and a quest.

I really enjoy several elements of this book. I like that the veil between worlds is thin but often difficult to traverse. In one scene, Taron’s father, a famous actor, doesn’t realize he’s descended into Hell, believing all the other actors have spent hours in makeup. Taron journeys for weeks through multiple portals to visit her mother in Purgatory. Taron is possessed by a demon for years without anyone noticing. Taron’s relationships with Shift and Jacob are complex and unexpected. There’s a box that Taron and Jacob can’t think about without getting foggy-headed. A contract between the Fae and Hell needs to be renegotiated.

Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit I didn’t enjoy. Despite the multifaceted fantasy elements, the story is prosaic. You’d think the Island of Apples and Hell would be more interesting. The epic scope is underwhelmed by the lack of action or character growth. Characters hide information from each other for no reason. Once the quest plot is revealed it’s unclear why the MacGuffin is so important.The layered literary, historical, and mythological references are clever but not satisfying.

Recommended for fantasy readers who love detailed prose, prosaic scenes, and big (but often unorganized) scholarly stories!