Auld creepy: The Library of the Dead, by T.L. Huchu

Ghosts, haunted houses (and haunting architecture), and urban legends – in a place that isn’t London?

It’s time for a trip to an impressively creepy trip to Scotland’s capital city, and I was not prepared.

 

 

WHEN GHOSTS TALK
SHE WILL LISTEN

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will rock her world.

Ropa will dice with death (not part of her life plan…) as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies.

Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

*

I love a good urban fantasy. The mix of a modern setting with spooky or mythical lore is a hook that never fails to get me. When you’re throwing in a flavour of magic that’s unfamiliar to me, as a white Scot? I’m absolutely sold.

In this case, there was never going to be any chance of me not being hooked: Ropa’s magic, rooted in Zimbabwean tradition, relies on the use of music to attract, bind and control the dead. It’s a twist I can’t resist, and luckily the rest of the book is pretty darn good too.

Edinburgh is just about as creepy as it gets, if you know your urban legends and/or your history. When your fictional version of it is post-apocalyptic thanks to some all-too-real-seeming climate change damage (and equally frustrating yet likely bullseye-hitting political fallout), the creep factor only climbs higher. I was not ready for that twist, but the effect was skin-crawlingly impressive.

Then there’s Ropa herself, and I need to talk about her for just a minute because this wee shite had no business winning me over quite so thoroughly. I wasn’t ready for that either. For someone so apparently cynical that she’ll charge the living relatives of the dead to whom she speaks for her services, relaying their messages for a fee and being ruthless about any inability to pay up, she flipped that emotional table on me remarkably well, and not a moment too soon. Just when I was starting to wonder if she was going to irritate me into putting the book down – boom. Suddenly she’s seeing the world from the other side of that mirror, and I’m feeling very differently about her.

All the cynicism in the world can’t change the fact that she is, after all, just a young girl herself. And the author doesn’t pull that emotional punch, to his credit.

This young girl is still capable of protecting herself, though. By the time that twist came and went, there was no way I was putting this book down. I love a snarky heroine, and I love a snarky heroine with a heart of gold all the more.

Then there’s the underground magical library. I mean, if you’re going to put one in an ancient city full of its own lore, why wouldn’t you pick a city that’s built on a massive hill and hide your magic library under it? Prime spooky real estate, that is.

Honestly, I am sickened by just how appealing all these details are to me. It’s like someone gave me the key to a sweet shop and then handed me a wheelbarrow.

So, yes. If you were at all considering picking this book up, or if you hadn’t heard of it before now, do yourself a favour and get in on it. This is a breath of fresh air for urban fantasy, and I say all of the above as a Glaswegian. (Edinburgh natives will understand what I mean, and aye, same tae you, pals.)

T.L. Huchu is one to watch, and I will definitely be watching out for the next book in this series.

*

This book was received as a free review copy, in exchange for an honest review.

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