Review - The Forbidden Library - Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library (The Forbidden Library, #1)Title: The Forbidden Library
Series: The Forbidden Library #1
Author: Django Wexler
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Publication: April 1st 2014, Kathy Dawson Books
Pages: 376 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Penguin Random House South Africa for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 
The Forbidden Library kicks off a brand new classic fantasy series perfect for fans of CoralineInkheart, and The Books of Elsewhere
Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy
When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.
It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice. 

 When I received this book to review, I was beyond ecstatic. I absolutely adore middle-grade novels, especially ones that feature an admirable heroine with an insatiable passion for books. Although I mainly enjoyed this book, there was something lacking, however, after endless struggle and debate, I still can't pinpoint what exactly. It might be that my interest wavered at points because I went through a mild slump during the middle of the novel, I'm not exactly sure? However, despite my slight disinterest in the middle I overall thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next instalment!

The Forbidden Library is centered around smart, brave little Alice whose father tragically dies in a boating accident, and she's shipped off to live with her Uncle Geryon who she didn't even know existed. He lives in a massive house where mysterious happenings occur. The house is devoid of any servants, however, at each meal time the table is ladled with food (even though she's the only one at the table) and when she turns around, the next second all the dishes have been cleared away! One day she sneaks into the forbidden library after talking cat, Ashes, helps her find a way. Once in the library, all kinds of mysterious things start to happen. She senses movement in her peripheral vision, she feels the shelves moving behind her back and then there's the several talking cats that lie tangled up on the bookshelves. But the strangest thing is when she meets Isaac, a boy a few years older than her, and he dares her to open a book and read it. However, this is no ordinary book, as soon Alice finds herself in the actual world and she has to defeat the monster allocated to that book in order to free herself. Alice quickly learns that she isn't who she thought she was and that nobody is who they say they are.

I loved the main character and I loved the idea behind the book and I loved the writing. The characters are fantastic. Alice is awesome! She actually reminded me slightly of Hermione, and as you know, that's quite a comparison to make. She's academic, hard-working, follows the rules (well, most of the time) and she loves reading and she is incredibly brave and resourceful. She's always coming up with a plan to save herself in a problematic situation and she's fiercely courageous. I also admire her for never just accepting things and always questioning what people have told her and wondering whether it's true or false, and then making a plan to find out. She's also quite funny and bold and I absolutely adore her character!
"'Want me to go through first?' Isaac said. 'To make sure it's safe?'
Alice snorted. She shoved her fingers into the crack between the shelves and pushed, wedging herself little by little into a space that seemed much to small to hold her."
"'Somebody has to get us out of here, doesn't she?' Alice said, with more bravado than she felt. 'You can just wait here.'
'Don't be stupid.' He sat up, wincing. 'You can't-'
'I can't do it? I'm at least going to try. You're welcome to sit around under these rocks until you starve.'"
Do you see? Do you see how awesome she is?

I also loved Ashes, the talking cat. He was incredibly funny and quite sarcastic as well and I loved the whole idea of talking cats, especially snarky ones. I hope his and Alice's friendship develop in the later books as I don't think she fully trusts anyone at the house yet, but I really hope it does.
"'I still say they're creepy," Ashes said.
'I don't think you get to decide what's creepy,' Alice said. 'You're a talking cat. You're creepy. This whole place is creepy.'
'Hmph.' Ashes' fur bristled with indignation."
The other characters didn't particularly stand out to me, though. Isaac was quite dull and he didn't have any admirable qualities and he wasn't particularly interesting. It's not that he was two-dimensional, more like he just seemed like quite a bland person. I do kind of ship him in Alice in a way though, but I hope he becomes more interesting throughout the rest of the trilogy.

Then there was Geryon and Mr. Black. I do think Mr. Black is quite frightening and I think Geryon has many secrets and I don't quite deem him as trustworthy. So I'm interested to see what further developments will take place with those characters as I do believe they have their fair share of skeletons in their closets.

I also find Emma quite a peculiar character, as if she were devoid of soul and I'd like to know what her back story is as I'm sure it must be quite fascinating to see how she became like she is.

I loved the writing in this book! It was quaint and charming and resembled writing that is often used in classics, it was peaceful and gentle and such an inviting type of writing! I will definitely be reading more of Wexler's books as I am utterly captivated by his unique writing style.

I love the whole idea behind this book, of literally being able to enter a book and live in it, but you have to fight the monsters inside of it in order to escape alive. I think I would've preferred it though if there weren't monsters you had to fight in the book in order to escape, I think if they could live in the book and do certain adventures there it would've perhaps made it more interesting, in my opinion.

The pacing was steady for most of the book, however, at some point in the middle I lost interest slightly. That was probably due to the mild reading slump I hit at that point though! After that, I flew through the book. The part with Alice, Isaac (who acted like such a wimp, by the way - well done, Alice, for taking charge like that!) and the dragon was utterly enthralling and I couldn't put the book down - before I knew it, I'd read 40 pages in an incredibly short amount of time, so the last few chapters were exhilarating.

However, like I said, I felt like there was something missing and I finally figured out what it was - this book wasn't what I expected and I therefore I got disappointed and secondly, The Forbidden Library didn't evoke passionate emotions in me - which is what I like to happen when I read a book. I want to cry and I want to scream and I want to laugh and I want to smack the book repeatedly and curse the characters. I want to feel, and I, unfortunately, didn't feel that much during this book. I laughed and I felt exhilaration at times and sometimes even fear, but there weren't any major plot twists or happenings that had me resembling a crying, emotional wreck or a goofy, smiling being of happiness and sunshine. If something shocking had happened it would've been perfect. There was definitely conflict but not the kind that made me have feels. This is a middle-grade though, so perhaps that's why there weren't many shocking plot twists?

Overall, I really enjoyed this despite a few minor issues! I absolutely loved the writing and I wanted to completely devour it as it had such a glorious feel about it. I also adored Alice, she was so headstrong, resourceful and kind and I can't wait to become even better acquainted with her in the following books. The secondary characters weren't as lovable or interesting as Alice, but I know they're hiding secrets so I'm intrigued to find out what they are. I loved the whole idea of this book and I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel! If you're a beginner to fantasy or you feel like reading a light novel that involves magic, spunky heroines and talking cats, this book would be perfect for you!

I give it: 4/5 CUPCAKES!

'Indeed, books. They are the ocean in which magic swims.'"
"'A friend of mine once told me that you can find practically anything, if you know which book to look in.'"