T.L. Huchu’s first installment of the Edinburgh Nights series, The Library of the Dead, is a kaleidoscopic adventure that melds the phantasmagoric with the mundane.
Ropa Moyo is struggling to both make ends meet and take care of her beloved Gran and little sister, Izwi. She dropped out of school to work as a ghosttalker, a messenger between the deceased and the people they left behind. Ropa is always eager for a quick gig, but an eerie pattern has begun to emerge. Ghosts all over Edinburgh have been warning her of cursed and bewitched local children, and Ropa is wary of whatever powerful entity might be employing this dark magic. To help her figure out what’s going on, her childhood best friend, Jomo Maige, takes Ropa to the mysterious Library where his father works, an occult research facility where Ropa can check out books on magic to supplement her patient Gran’s ghosttalker lessons and where her library card is a desiccated ear. Huchu’s twisty and devilishly macabre novel follows Ropa, Jomo and Ropa's new Library ally, Priya, a healer who uses a wheelchair, as they unravel a mystery so chilling that even the ghosts of Edinburgh shudder in revulsion.
Huchu has crafted an unforgettable character in Ropa, from her green locs to her black lipstick to her sense of humor, which is sharp enough to rival the dagger she carries on her body at all times. Ropa is a smart-talking, intelligent survivor, and she wants to provide the best opportunities for Izwi and a safe, stable home for her benevolent Gran. Ropa secretly finds joy in helping set spirits free, though she hides this soft spot with her sardonic quips. She gives off the impression of being a lone wolf, but her friendship with Jomo is constantly endearing, and her connection with Priya provides her with a new ride-or-die pal who is just as passionate about all things strange and unusual.
Ropa conveys messages from the dead to their unrequited high school crushes and alleviates tensions to prevent intrafamily hauntings, so how difficult could this new adventure be? But her Library explorations push her skills further than she ever imagined, while helping her learn more about the magical abilities passed down through her Zimbabwean family. Ropa’s pursuit of greater power and knowledge is always tied to how she can best protect her community, which is one of the most charming aspects of this very charming book. She is dedicated to becoming not only a proper magician but also a more compassionate ghosttalker, trailing the footsteps of those who came before and forging a new path for those who will follow.