Lenna has a quiet life. She and her father inhabit an empty house, circling around each other with the mournful indifference of cats in the years since her mother’s death. She has her job as a junior librarian, where she finds fulfillment, of a sort, as she catalogues, studies, and loses herself in fantasies, histories, or academic works, none of which will ever leave her or hurt her. Books are safe. Lenna is safe.
Gilbert’s arrival is a storm in a quiet sky, coming with fantastical tales, thinly veiled lies, and begging for help. Help Lenna is powerless not to give him. As a child, Gilbert had been one of the pillars of support Lenna leaned on after her mother’s death until he left for the Blue Crescent Brotherhood to learn magic along with other young men. Gilbert, and his apprentice, Luc, have a relic of untold power that they have stolen from the Brotherhood and are fleeing for their very lives. Now, Lenna is whisked into an adventure that would not be out of place in one of her novels.
Mages, murders, and magic jewels are only the tip of the spear. In the Granemere Settlement, Lenna and Luc discover the truth of the stone. It’s a Godstone, one of three powerful artifacts whose power and possession brought the world to war. To own one, to bond to one, is to become a mage of astonishing power. To own all three is to rule the world. Lenna now has one; the second is owned by an Ilyan merchant. And the third … by the Krevlum Emperor, a man whose ambition is endless.
Before anyone can decide what to do with the jewel, someone steals it and flees in the night, causing Lenna to race after him, along with the Freewoman Pim. Aided by an Ilyan merchant prince, a mage of the Brotherhood, and her own wits, Lenna the Librarian must become Lenna the hero.
Librarian is the first book in Lenna’s Arc, a series that follows Lenna Faircloth, librarian, mage-in-training, novice adventurer, and hero in the making. For all that she has lived life through her books, Lenna is a keen judge of character and has a practical way of approaching most situations. Never the sort to fall to tears in times of difficulty, she instead freezes, her mind working to find an answer — the right answer — even as chaos is exploding around her. She also feels like a cold person, not prone to strong emotions. The loss of her childhood friend barely seems to register, a betrayal only seems to tire her, and the flirtations of the men and women around her are treated like strange behaviors that she wants to study rather than respond to. It’s not that she’s repressed or frigid; she just feels cold and distant.
The writing style is dense, packed with detailed description and plot exposition. The world building takes place on the edges where it can be felt rather than explained, which I personally enjoyed. It does, however, tend to slow down a scene or a conversation when a good portion of the reader’s attention is directed to the stairs they’re walking down, the chairs they’re sitting on, or the endless simile’s Lenna’s inner dialogue tends to fall into. None of this is bad, by any means, but it’s going to be an acquired taste as the book reads more slowly than some other adventure stories.
There is no romance at the moment, but of the three characters flirting with Lenna, one is likely to be the best candidate (with the other two ending up staring into each other’s eyes on a train platform). Pim is a young woman not yet in her twenties who, as a Freewoman, is accustomed to being held equal to or in greater regard than the men around her. She’s confident, resilient, and more than a bit of a cocksure braggart who loves herself some outrageous farm-related analogies: “That’s like refusing to eat a bull because you might grow horns.” While it can be charming, her repeated efforts can also get a bit tiring, making her feel more like a comedic sidekick than a potential love interest.
What I found interesting was that the female villain seemed to make more of a dramatic impact on Lenna than Pim, the merchant prince, or the pretty blonde boy from the brotherhood. There was more chemistry between them than any of the other three, which makes me wonder if, further into the series, someone else will be introduced as Lenna’s potential partner.
This book isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste. Technically it’s all there, the writing, the plot, the characterizations … but Lenna’s reserve might keep some readers at arm’s length. For myself, this is a solid fantasy adventure story and I’m curious enough to look forward to the next book in the series.