The Library Of The Dead
Library Of The Dead is a book by T. L. Huchu published 1 June 2021 by Tor Books.
It is book 1 of Edinburgh Nights series, set in Edinburgh, Scotland. The author grew up in Zimbabwe but has lived in Edinburgh most of his adult life.
Library Of The Dead is a YA Fantasy about Ropa a young girl with an uncanny gift, a ghostalker otherwise known as Visionairs, Talkers, Hauntmail et cetera or if you want to sound scholarly practical necromancy as suggestedby Ropa’s friend Priya a bundle of energy on wheels who becomes Ropa’s friend at the super secret, super exclusive and super snobbish library of the dead.
So Ropa of Zimbabwean descent is a sort of ghost whisperer and who chats up needy ghosts to pass messages, for a fee of course; a girl gotta eat, and when a child goes missing, well things get a bit more complicated, exciting and mystic as we take a ride on the shadowy magical underside of a modern Edinburgh.
Reading Library Of The Dead was reminiscent of JK Rawlings’ Harry Potter meets Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials meets Nnnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch Series
The attention to the magical systems and the grounding rules that show the juxtapostioned systems of Chivanhu Craft (A Zimbabwean traditional form of magic) VS A Modern Scottish Magic with a scientific approach.
Tendai is a phenomenal writer who constantly challenges himself to step outside the comfort zone. Library of The Dead has come a long way from The Hairdresser Of Harare, in genre and style. As someone who has never walked the streets of Edinburgh, the world building is top tier as I tried to picture the setting and figure out if it was a sort of past present and futuristic post-apocalyptic Scotland…
“SCIENCE IS THE GREAT ANTIDOTE TO THE POISON OF ENTHUSIASM AND SUPERSTITION”
The characters are also colourful, the almost 15, 14-year-old snarky precocious protagonist with green dreadlocks and black lipstick, the needy ghosts who are grounded with music from a traditional instrument of Zimbabwe the Mbira which in Shona lore has been used to summon ancestral spirits…
First of all for a book titled Library Of The Dead I would expect The Library to take a more central role as a setting or in its explanation here it feels more like a prop, a waypoint along the journey… I expected it to have a bit more presence, like after reading Harry Potter, Hogwarts stays with you, (Once upon a time I even wanted to send an application letter to Hogwarts don’t laugh) Well Library Of The Dead doesn’t have me closing the book and wanting to search if such a Library exists in Edinburgh… hmmm maybe I should check now.
The book ends with what feels like some loose ends and incomplete aspects and character development for example its hinted several times that there’s more than meets the eye with Ropa’s Grandmother Melsie Mhondoro maybe as the series progresses some of these things will be revealed
One of the things I wondered up reading this book was how needy ghosts in Edinburgh could be anchored using Mbira music which they likely wouldn’t have heard in their lifetime unless I missed the part about how in the post apocalyptic world the veil between the living and the dead was tethered by Mbira music regardless of origins.
As a product of a writer who has lived between two cultures growing up in Zimbabwe and spending most of adult life in Edinburgh, the book fuses the two identities in a protagonist who is of Zimbabwean descent, not quite belonging to one world… I have seen it argued in some literary spaces that African writers abroad overdo the African in Diaspora trope while others say they should not adopt fantastical views about Africa without enough lived experience…
But at the end of the day culture should be dynamic and we should be able to watch read and enjoy watching a creative speculative work of fiction steeped in our cultures so ghosts in Edinburgh being anchored by Mbira music… bring it on lets see what comes next
I loved the book and am a great fan of T.L. Huchu and the work he is doing especially venturing into the field which writers in Africa seem to be steering clear of, fantasy.
The Library Of The Dead was the July read for the Harare Book Club and had a meetup with the author, check out thread below for a summary on some of the nuggets shared.