Monday, December 27, 2010

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard

The Library of Shadows is both a fantasy, a science fiction parable, and a good read. Birkegaard sets his book in an antiquarian bookstore run by a man whose whole family had owned the store for several generations. When Luka, the owner of the store dies, the store and its contents pass on to Jon, Luka's son.

Jon, a successful lawyer, is not in the least interested in pursing a career as a bookseller. At the moment he's involved with an important client. When the client pursues wanting to buy the bookstores for one of his clients, the story rushes headfirst and breathlessly into the machinations of an intricate plot.

We find out that there are two types of readers—transmitters and receivers. Not everyone possesses these abilities. The ability remains latent until an individual is activated.

Jon is eventually activated and his powers as a transmitter of the story's content are enormous—so strong that he must learn to control them because unexpected and virulent results may occur during his readings. Transmitters are capable of enhancing the enjoyment of a story by increasing the intensity of visual images and creating a scene that transcends the narrative.

Receivers are capable of manipulating people and changing their ways of thinking about something that they are reading. The receiver must be cognizant of what they're doing and not use this power for nefarious means.

The plot, like the slithering asp,reveals layers of intrigue. Both Jon's father and mother appear to have been murdered by a Shadow Organization. Both transmitters and receivers once belonged to the same Society of Book Lovers—however, an argument twenty years before Luka's death split the group in two. Both sides are suspicious of the "other".

Jon refuses to sell and is eventually kidnapped by the leader of the Shadow Organization. In a series of rather far fetched events Jon is spirited off to Egypt where he is drugged and manipulated. In that state he repudiates what he thought and who he trusted prior to the kidnapping. There's a tumultuous ending at the rebuilt Library of Alexandria.

There's even a love story entwined in the story. This is the author's first novel and I expect that his next novel will resolve some of the issues evident in this novel—a plot that doesn't always hold together and often seems to plummet ahead without any warning and characters that are lacking in real depth. Having said that I found the initial kernel of an idea fascinating and worth the read.

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