The Book that Wouldn’t Burn, a review by Joanna

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The Book that Wouldn’t Burn

Mark Lawrence

570 pages

Published on May 11, 2023


The Book that Wouldn’t Burn will henceforth be known to me as The Book That Destroyed My Reading Schedule. I normally get through a novel every 2 to 3 days, but this has taken me 17. It’s both far too long, and very slow, so every few pages, I’d be stopping to browse, and I’ve had major Reading Procrastination Syndrome – very unlike me. This is a shame because it sounded like a great story, even though I’m not much of a fantasy fan, and I’ve enjoyed previous books by this author. I didn’t hate it, and Livira is an intriguing character, but I was bored for most of it, and resent all the books I’ve had to defer so I could get through it.

Livira is a ten year old orphan who has grown up in the care of her aunt in a small desert settlement. She’s fierce and mischievous, but no match for the brutal wolf-men known as Sabbers who descend on them one day, slaying the adults and kidnapping the children. She is taken to the busy city of Crath and trained to work in its endless magical library. Evar is a young man who has grown up inside the library with his adopted siblings, raised by two inanimate carers. When they meet, a bond develops which will transcend time.

This complex story was well written although I found the world building rather confusing at times. This is fantasy in the sense that there are non-human intelligent species, magic portals, sword fights, supernatural beings and forms of AI, despite the unspecified time period being pre-industrial, but the only typical Fantasy trope is the multi-talented orphan with a Special Destiny. Similarly, this features a love story but it’s not a typical Romance plot. It’s the start of a trilogy so be aware the story is not complete, although I wouldn’t call the ending a cliffhanger.
There are a lot of minor characters to remember, many with similar names eg Mayland, Malar and Meelan – I thought there might be a reason for this, but if there is I missed it. Livira is developed enough to make Evar’s feelings for her believable, but the reverse is not true. There’s way too much time spent wandering around the library and not nearly enough action for me. I did like the various twists that I did not see coming. Had it not been an ARC I would have abandoned it as Just Not For Me: while I can’t say I enjoyed it, it is a good story, and does have lots of 5 star reviews, so if this is your genre, you like the author and you aren’t put off by my criticism, do give it a go. I doubt I will have the stamina to get through the rest of the trilogy, which is a shame as I would like to know what happens next.
Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Australia, I am posting this honest review voluntarily.

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  1. Lou Kemp

    Great review and the premise of the book is unusual. Thank you.

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