What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world? Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die - or to flourish and rise again. Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. The city is also being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from an unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but...things...keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends are escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such dangerous creature. She turns to Shadow, an alchemist, for aid, but Shadow - inadvertently possessed by an ifrit - has a perilous quest of her own to undertake.
I am a fan of Liz Williams’ Inspector Chen series1, so when I saw that she started a new series about librarians kicking mythological butt I was IN.
Worldsoul has a lot of great things in it: magical libraries! Amazing female characters! Blending of myths and magic and so on! Pretty good writing! Yay!
I think the setting of Worldsoul has a lot going for it. It’s kind of like Diana Wynne Jones’ Time City, in that it’s a place removed from but still informed by our world. There’s ancient Egyptian elements, an Arabian Nights-type city, mentions of the Alexandrian library, Norse gods and monsters, steampunkish trains and spaceships, and lots more. LW blends all that together in a way that feels very cohesive while avoiding a “one big melting pot” situation. They’re different elements of different cultures, and they act like it, but everything gets along together pretty well and it makes for a wonderful fantasy world.
The characters are for sure the best part. So many female characters, and none of them carbon copies of one another! They have feelings and aspirations and jobs and they can kick butt while also avoiding being tropes of strong female characters. They’re strong, but not JUST because they can do a lot of violence. Woohoo!
They’re also just really amazing heroes. I particularly liked Shadow, a devout Muslim alchemist who goes on adventures with angels and demons. And I LOVED her friendship with Mercy, the librarian! Yay, positive female friendship! I hope I get to see them solving lots more magical mysteries.
One thing that kept bugging me, though, is the presentation of disir. The Wikipedia page doesn’t match with what’s presented in the book, which is fine because, y’know, authors are allowed to mess with stuff, but everything else seems perfectly placed (Mercy’s ka, for instance) that this one thing being SO different made it a little hard to get over. Yay for including a super creepy Loki, though!
Worldsoul is a wonderful first book in a new series, full of fun magical adventures and friendship. I can’t wait to read the second book when it comes out!
Read: June 11-13, 2014