Book Review: The Library of the Unwritten – A. J. Hackwith

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A fantastical celebration of literature! If you’re a writer or reader who wonders what various characters would look or be like in real life, you’ll have so much fun with A. J. Hackwith’s great debut novel. It combines a love of writing with the philosophy of art and belief. The Library of the Unwritten is the start of very promising new fantasy series.

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Ingenius Representation of Authorship

The Library of the Unwritten is a pocket of Hell. All stories yet to be composed wait here for their authors to write them. However, some never do, so this literary purgatory is as sad as it is mesmerising.

Claire is the librarian, a hard yet intriguing woman who, after dying, was assigned to the Unwritten Wing. Essentially, she and her muse apprentice, Brevity, must care for the books, but also keep them from waking up. In this event, they must capture the escaped characters and put them back so as not to risk their stories changing. Or ceasing to exist entirely!

But this is just the tip of the awesome literature-themed fantasy you’ll discover in this debut novel, also filled with many bits of wisdom and wonderfully quotable passages. It may be worth writing them down and keeping them for inspiration.

And this is exactly what you’ll get out of the reading experience the most: inspiration and love for literature.

Challenging of Literary Canons

This is a fantasy book that uses rich imagination to make several good points. From the value and power of artistic expression to the ridiculousness of certain characterisations, The Library of the Unwritten will make you nod and chuckle. A lot!

Among the infinite bookish references is a particular emphasis on recognising character stereotypes and changing how we perceive different roles. Titles like ‘hero’, ‘damsel’, and ‘villain’ are dissected, revealing their very human natures.

Part of the fun is seeing figures from books and myths come to life and speak their minds. The narrative itself bubbles with lots of interesting concepts. Good and evil, religion, gender roles, and sexual orientation are some of the topics Hackwith broaches with skill and flair.

Historical and Cultural Layers

A momentous discovery in Heaven drives the adventure of The Library of the Unwritten. A page of the Devil’s book finds its way to the Pearly Gates. And a hunt begins for other pages said to reside somewhere on Earth.

Similarly, Claire and her allies in Hell’s library are also spurred to search for them. If only to prevent a war between the rival realms that would only catch humans – and their precious imaginative souls – in the middle.

The librarian’s journey threads through different purgatory dimensions composed of the beliefs and ideals of their respective cultures. While some thrive, others are ancient and forgotten. At the same time, we get glimpses into the worlds and struggles of angels and Hell’s creatures.


If you love literature and clever fantasy, I cannot recommend this book enough. I expect the sequels to expand on A. J. Hackwith’s already intricate world-building, so The Library of the Unwritten is a great introduction into the series. A work worth following for its artistic and intellectual passion.

Get your copy: Amazon, Waterstones, AbeBooks

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Author: Electra Nanou

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One thought

  1. This review of the book “the Library of the Unwritten” got me excited : to have to capture the escaped characters from other books so as not to risk them changing!!! To bring them back to life so they speak for themselves!! It make a good present to friends!!

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