Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries, and Lore by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As anthologies go, Ex Libris a mixed bag. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be (hah), nor half as weird. In fact, it started off almost downright wholesome with Ellen Klages' In the House of the Seven Librarians, which I totally loved.
The libraries depicted in this book are often wonderful, magical places, some of which hold more magic than can be reasonably contained. In Libres (Elizabeth Bear) is a hilarious case in point, emphasising how dangerous it is (can be), where one browses at their own risk and carries a spool of thread to remember how to get out again. Ruthanna Emrys's Those Who Watch explores this further, though in a slightly darker way, with shifting statues and secret myths. Another notably dangerous library is shown in In The Stacks by Scott Lynch where reshelving books is a dangerous job, often involving magic and swords and resulting in trips to the infirmary.
Paula Guran is known for selecting darker, wilder stories and this anthology offers that too, mostly in the form of frightening librarians, such as the one in Special Collections (Norman Partridge). There are nice ones too, such as Miss Louisa Foster in Death and the Librarian (Esther M. Friesner) and Miss Adams in Ray Bradbury's Exchange. Some librarians and libraries are inexplicably linked, harking back to the lost library of Alexandria (The Midbury Lake Incident; Kristine Kathryn Rusch).
All in all, Ex Libris is a celebration of words, the power of words, and the people who try to keep them in order. It's a hefty book but one worth reading!
Note: I received a copy of this ebook via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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