BooksReviews

THE LIBRARY Delivers, But With Some Effort

The Books of Alexandrea Book 3: The Library 
Written by J.H. Nadler
Published by WorkingCat
September 8, 2023
Paperback, 742 pages

The end is nigh, and I have to say I’ve enjoyed the journey, for the most part.

Jason Nadler finishes out the trilogy with a sweeping epic-size tale that brings the whole story together into a rather satisfying conclusion, even though along the way there are points at which I’d like to take issue with his editor, Julie Perry. And yes, I’m calling her out by name because she’s done Nadler a disservice. More on that in a moment.

First, the good: the book delivers a pretty solid conclusion to Alexandrea’s story, and while it takes a bit of time to get there, the final confrontation feels like the stakes are high enough that maybe it doesn’t all turn out for the best. And I’m very glad that as Alex’s “Chosen One” narrative plays out over the course of the three books, she’s not ever once portrayed as a Mary Sue. She suffers a lot for her growth, both as a person and as a witch, and that’s good to see because she’s got to earn her place. She’s even reluctant about having that place. She doesn’t particularly want what destiny is serving up, and that gives her arc some weight that it might not otherwise have had it all come easy for her.

Now, the not so good: There’s a lot of side questing in this one, something that we didn’t get as much in the first two books. Granted, there are a lot of threads to tie up, but there are a few that are introduced in this book, and they don’t necessarily add a lot. There are several points in the story where it felt like we’re about to have that final confrontation between Alex and Jeremiah, but then I’d realize I have another 60-80 pages to go, so we’re not there yet. That’s not to say it ever got boring — it doesn’t ever do that — but I think a few scenes could probably have been trimmed to let things flow a little more smoothly.

And that gets me to editor Julie Perry and Nadler’s beta readers. There are quite a few homophones in this book — feted instead of fetid, for example — words that are actual words, but the usage is wrong. And it got distracting because as I’m reading the story, I’m chewing out the copy editor. If there’s a second edition of this book, someone needs to take a red pen to every one of those. Does it diminish the story? No. But my goodness, is it distracting.

There’s also a couple of points where Alex takes an action that leads to a “shared experience” type of moment, and I must admit I had to go back a few pages to figure out what I was reading because 1) there’s a chapter break, and b) there’s no real set-up/explanation for what I was reading. I finally got it from the context clues, but the first one of these could probably have been given a better beginning. Again, that’s on Julie Perry.

Back to some good: I thought it was really interesting what Nadler did with Marta. Without giving too much away, her new status felt like a logical progression for her, and I think her relationship with Alex in this book gives us an added layer both in terms of the dynamics between the two and how much it impacts the stakes that are in play. And it’s a clever use of Oblivion and the Between here, too.

Rose’s character arc comes to a point where I don’t want to slap her. Yes, she’s still angry and tends to go off half-cocked with no plan, but she’s not sounding one-note here. She has some things to do besides stand around petulantly huffing because Alex has insecurities about being a leader and facing her Chosen One status. In fact, most of the Coven gets something to do here as they mount a mission to rescue the women being held prisoner at the Farm.

The Farm is an interesting locale as well. The idea of being a prisoner of your own imagined pleasures is a somewhat fresher perspective on how Hell would work, and I wish we’d gotten more there after the reveal of what it actually is and how it exists in the Between. The way this prison functioned, there was a lot of potential to see the horror that could come from “be careful what you wish for” scenarios.

Structurally, the story fits neatly into the “heroine prepares for the final showdown” pattern, with plenty of moments that keep raising the stakes along the way. Jeremiah is the ever-present Boogeyman who appears sporadically throughout, and while I think Nadler could have given Jeremiah another layer or two of menace, I’m also glad he’s not overplayed. He waits in the wings, a constant threat looming in the darkness. And when he finally takes the stage in this story, it’s at a point where there’s a question as to whether or not Alex and her Coven can defeat him. What happens to magic if he wins? What happens to humanity? What happens to the Coven and the Books and the Library?

Overall, it’s a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy in spite of the pieces and parts that need another pass with an editor. The notion of the Between is an intriguing one, that place that exists in dreams, but here also serves to connect anyone who’s able to use magic. As Alex gets to know it better, learns how to use her magic there in different ways, I could see another story playing out in this world, with a more in-depth look at the world-building that led to the “Dream Land” environment that gives dreaming souls a place to visit.

Despite the quibbles, I enjoyed the journey to the end. And it is an end, as we discussed when Jason was on Live From The Bunker back in September. I’m looking forward to see what new tale he tells with Shadows at Dawn in 2024. In the meantime, The Books of Alexandrea will stay in my Library for additional reading.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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