The Sword in the Stacks (Ninja Librarians Book 2) by Jen Swann Downey, for Timeslip Tuesday

Imagine of all the lost libraries of history all ended up in a sanctuary for persecuted libraries in a space outside of ordinary time, and imagine if those libraries (complete with their own gardens, weather, and of course books/scrolls/clay tablets/potsherds with writing on them etc.) were home to a brave society of champions of the written word, "Lybrarians" flinging themselves through time to save books and book writers in danger.  This is the setting for Jen Swann Downey's Ninja Librarian series, the second book of which, The Sword in the Stacks (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, June 2016) has just been released, and just been read by me with much enjoyment (here's my review of the first book, which I also enjoyed).

Dorrie and her brother Marcus stumbled into this collection of libraries by accident in book 1, and found that they had the ability to open the doors between different times, something the Lybrarians naturally value highly.  After a brief visit at home in the real world, the two are back for more training and more adventures.  There's a threat to the Lybrarians' work--a counter-movement of those who would restrict books, and reading, and public dissemination of words and ideas to a very few, and the chief work of the Lybrarians is to foil their efforts.   The leader of this movement has been captured by the Lybrarians, but the threat to the history of books and writers has by no means been neutralized, and there is much tension and adventure and time-travelling and clue finding as Dorrie and her fellow trainees try to help set things right.

And in the meantime there's time travel back to ancient Greece to argue with Aristotle, time travel to early 20th century London where Dorrie and her best friend Ebba get involved with both suffragettes and anit-suffragettes, and time travel including uncomfortable camel riding to Timbuktu as part of the bad-guy foiling.  Even more in the meantime, there's Lybrarian training for the young apprentices--sword fighting (with Cyrano de Bergeraces), codes and cyphers, sailing, near-drowning, and more. And there's also exploration of the whole complex of libraries, the consumption of tasty snacks, the care and keeping of a deadly lizard, and a cute baby seal.

More mundanly, Dorrie is also plagued by guilt (for what happened in the first book) and self-doubt (is she really Lybrarian material?) and there is a mean girl who (as is just about always the case) has a backstory of reasons why she is mean.

So this is a book just jam packed with lots and lots of story, and it is all tremendously interesting!  It might seem like there's so much here that it's too frenetic to enjoy, but it all hangs together around the central character of Dorrie, who is relatable enough and introspective enough to keep things centered. Though Dorrie and Marcus are not identified as anything other than white, the cast of characters around them (reflecting the diversity of the world's libraries) is very diverse. Dorrie's friend Ebba, who is the next main character in terms of page time, is from Mali, for instance.

Happily, Sword in the Stacks starts with a nice explanation of the whole set up given to Dorrie and Marcus' parents, so even if your memories of the first book are fuzzy, you will soon find your feet again and be ready to follow along as the world is saved (or at least, progress made on saving) from book burners!

For fans of time travel, I think this one offers more than the first did in terms of actual contemplation of difference--not just bouncing in and out, but reflection and exploration (this is particularly true of Dorrie and Ebba's adventures with women's suffrage, which is good Time Travel qua Time Travel reading.  For fans of books and history, there are just tons of literary reference to enjoy, and there's a nice glossary of people and places mentioned in the back.  This aspect of the book is a nice treat for established or budding intellectuals!

So in short a wildly entertaining, fun, fast read with food for the mind as well.

Disclaimer: copy of the book gratefully received from the author.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh! I am adding this to my want-to-read list now!


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