Saturday, June 25, 2016

‘Ninja Librarians: Sword in the Stacks’

Book cover: 'The Ninja Librarians, Sword in the Stacks.' Image depicts three figures against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling rows of shelves stacked with books and the skeletons of small animals. An enormous portrait of a mustachioed man in a hat glowers down at them.
It was such a delight to read The Accidental Keyhand, first book in The Ninja Librarians, that I eagerly accepted an invitation by series author Jen Swann Downey to read the second book.

As Sword in the Stacks opens (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2016), young protagonists Dorrie and Marcus begin their training as official apprentices to the Lybrariad, a secret society that aids people who were persecuted throughout history for expressing their ideas.

This fantasy series builds upon the image of the library professional as a defender of intellectual freedom and endows its characters with swashbuckling derring-do.

These “lybrarians-with-a-y” are as equally proficient with various types of intrigue and combat as they are with speed cataloging.

“Petrarch’s Library,” the Lybrariad’s base of operations, is anchored to past and present centuries, accessible via “spoke libraries.”

Libraries that ceased to exist in their own times are also preserved within Petrarch’s Library, which magically reconfigures itself to make room when new “ghost libraries” arrive. I don’t want to spoil too many wonderful details about one such “ghost library.”

A repressive organization that held power in the distant past — and has regained power in future centuries not yet accessible to the Lybrariad — seeks to undo crucial missions by the Lybrariad and restore a time when the ability to read and write was restricted to only a few people.

The threat posed by the Foundation is juxtaposed against the ethical considerations addressed during Dorrie’s training.

(At one point, Dorrie and fellow apprentice Ebba are sent to early 20th-century England to prevent suppression of a newspaper opposing votes for women — because freedom of speech isn’t just applicable to the ideas a lybrarian agrees with.)

Ultimately, I found so much to enjoy while reading Sword in the Stacks, and recommend it for young readers who like a mix of ideas with their adventure. Here’s hoping for future volumes in The Ninja Librarians.

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