The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

Published: July 9th 2010
Goodreads badgePublisher: Transworld Publishers
Pages: 430
Format: Book
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 stars

Imagine that some people have the power to affect your thoughts and feelings through reading—to seduce you with amazing stories, conjure up vividly imagined worlds, and manipulate you into thinking exactly what they want you to. When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. Jon had not seen his father for 20 years—since the mysterious death of his mother. 

After Luca’s death is followed by an arson attempt on the shop, Jon is forced to explore his family’s past. Unbeknownst to him, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret. It is the meeting place of a society of booklovers and readers who have maintained a tradition of immense power passed down from the days of the great library of ancient Alexandria. Now someone is trying to destroy them, and Jon finds he must fight to save himself and his new friends.

Oh my god I adored this book. I do not think I have ever read a crime/thriller book before (I’m not really counting The Da Vinci Code in this). This was gripping, it was suspenseful and it draws you in like no other. Given the content of the book it was amazing that it had a hold over me. It would be a disappointment if a book of this nature, about this kind of thing was uninteresting and could be put down, but this I had to drag myself away from and got annoyed when I was interrupted.

I simply loved it from start to finish, the characters were real, deep and were very well developed. Even if not everything was exposed and explained the first time we see them it is drawn out through the entire book so even in the final chapters we are still learning about them as people. It was intense, it was funny, it was sweet, action filled and dramatic, everything it needed to be very believable within its realm of possibility.

The writing style was good and allowed insights into characters as well as detailed but not over the top descriptions of people and places. Some of the language around descriptions of the bookshop or environment were beautiful and fitted nicely into the story, especially if seen by a character as it suited their perception of the world perfectly. The point of view changes throughout between a few of the characters. It is good because it allows you to get to know everyone through their own eyes and their interactions with other characters. But no matter whose point of view it is Birkegaard sometimes flows off into tangents of explanations after he hits on a point or topic. It is not a bad thing exactly, it helps explain a few things, surprisingly doesn’t distract really from the story and then he manages to loop it back almost seamlessly to where he trailed off from. It is an interesting technique and it does expand on either the current character in particular, or just explain those around them and their own back story and perceptions by others.

The first half appears slow paced, not in a bad way though. You get to feel around the story and take in everything much like Jon does, you learn as he is exposed to the new information and situations. But then at the halfway mark it gets very exciting very quickly and I got rather excited as I knew this was where the action and adventure was going to begin.

Throughout the story so much is not said so you are trying to make your own assumptions, piece together clues, assume everything is clues and hints, trying not to suspect everyone. It was enthralling which was great because in a book about being so involved in a text it was amazing how engaged and into this book you get. It is very hard to draw yourself away from it, you want to know what is happening what will happen. It’s so mysterious and you don’t know what is connected and what isn’t and it constantly keeps you guessing and eager to find out what is really going on. It is a bit like watching a crime show or something similar, you focus after awhile on people who keep popping up, trying to fill in mystery people with possible people you’ve already come across. You are suspicious of everyone who is mentioned because you are convinced they hold a greater purpose. It is amazing, your brain works overtime trying to think of all the possibilities and you read so much into everything in an effort to figure out the ending before being led there by Birkegaard. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book of this kind before, it is very addictive and keeps you guessing constantly. I just can’t believe it is a first novel, it is spectacular.


Top Five of 2012

As I wrote that heading I felt a little disappointed it couldn’t be Top Five 2005 just so I could get it to rhyme. Ah the things I think of. Anyway, I thought since we are still establishing ourselves, and being the new year and all, I would do a list of my favourite books of last year. These were the kinds of books that were completely unexpected. They managed to get me excited, engaged, emotional and some were extremely heartwarming, unexpectedly so too I might add. I have only picked five because I think ten takes away the beauty and the purpose because really, ten is more for ‘Top Authors’ or ‘Favourite Characters’ something that can have multiple entrants that don’t really matter where they’re placed. I say that knowing it is undoubtedly untrue and when I can think of ten Favourite Characters I adore I’ll probably make my own list. But we can’t let facts and truth get in the way of my point.

Let’s do this from 5 to 1 shall we.

5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I will say that seeing the 2011 film of the same name made me want to read this book. I was a little taken back by the thickness but as soon as I turned to page one it didn’t matter. The beauty of the book was echoed in the film if that is any indication to go by.

4. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Straight off the bat, please do not judge this book by its movie. I beg you. I found this book and picked it because I thought the title looked familiar. Once I had finished and fell in love with it I searched and found the movie. I only got past a few seconds of the trailer before I turned it off. This book has such heart and soul entwined into it I knew the movie was not going to show that at all. And despite DiCamillo not making the list again I insist you read her other books as well, they are just as touching I promise.

3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I had this book recommended to me by a friend and I am so glad that she did. This book was filled with humour, with intrigue, it shows a side to reading and to literature I have never even thought about before. It became great inspiration for some story ideas certainly. I had not come across something like this before and now I will admit I am addicted to Fforde and his writing, and whatever series he dangles in front of me to read.

2. The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

This was another chance discovery that paid off. I have discovered anything with Book or Library in the title is going on my to read list. This one certainly did not disappoint. I had not read anything like this before and I have to say it has me searching out more crime/thriller type novels. It is not heavy with detail and deep with the mystery but it does keep you guessing and it was definitely one I could not put down; I lugged it everywhere until I had finished.

1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

I am extremely aware that I have not shut up about this book since I finished it. I apologise to everyone who has had to listen to me gush about this book but it was 100% worth it. I was so enthralled and moved and overwhelmed by this book as soon as I had finished I wrote to Mr Connolly telling him how fantastic I found his book. I implore you all to find this book and read it. Once again I found it on a fluke in the library and I am unbelievably glad I did. I am now on a hunt to track down his other titles from the very beginning including his Charlie Parker series. Fingers crossed they are just as brilliant.