The Book That Wouldn’t Burn Review, Mark Lawrence’s Library Trilogy

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is the utterly captivating novel that begins Mark Lawrence’s new fantasy trilogy for book lovers, The Library. Read my full review.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn Synopsis

The Book That Wouldn't Burn Review - Mark Lawrence The Library Book 1

All books, no matter their binding, will fall to dust. The stories they carry may last longer. They might outlive the paper, the library, even the language in which they were first written.

The greatest story can reach the stars . . .

This is the start of an incredible new journey from the internationally bestselling author of Prince of Thornsin which, though the pen may be mightier than the sword, blood will be spilled and cities burned…

Evar has lived his whole life trapped within a vast library, older than empires and larger than cities.

Livira has spent hers in a tiny settlement out on the Dust where nightmares stalk and no one goes.

The world has never noticed them.

That’s about to change.

As their stories spiral around each other, across worlds and time, each will unlock vast secrets about the world and themselves. This is a tale of truth and lies and hearts, and the blurring of one into another.

(Harper Voyager, May 2023)

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Literature, Drama, Romance

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

Book Review

I have not read as many books as I would have liked so far this year, but those that I have made time for have really delivered in quality. The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is another that is going straight on my Best Books of 2023 list.

I am not a big reader of fantasy, but this combination of parallel worlds, a central library setting and the promise of a trilogy from a bestselling author, was enough to tempt me.

My first experience of Mark Lawrence’s writing, this novel exceeded my expectations. That his world-building in The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is both vivid and detailed while at the same time epic in scale and scope, is perhaps not a huge surprise given his bestselling fantasy author status. But it was his wonderful characterisation and this story’s strong dramatic threads that captivated me from the very first chapter.

Wonderful characters

Some undeniable part of Livira wanted to bite the hands that offered so much so freely. Pride is stupid, pride is blind, but pride is also the backbone that runs through us: without pride there’s no springback, no resilience.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn‘s Livira is the perfect ‘imperfect’ female lead character. She is innately curious, a voracious learner, and not afraid to ruffle feathers by asking questions. She is an impetuously gutsy underdog and loyal to a fault for those deserving of it. She is a natural born leader, not afraid to push the boundaries for a worthy cause. She is fantastic.

Evar is in some respects the yin to Livira’s yang. He is a deep thinker, an introvert lacking confidence in his own strength and capacity to contribute.

The library’s silence and the solitude of his walk polished the stone of Evar’s ever-present loneliness, burnishing it until it gleamed with a high shine.

These two lead characters are supported by an equally colourful and engaging ensemble cast, and Lawrence fuels this narrative with bookish banter peppered with entertaining irony and philosophy.

Yute told me a great writer once said that fiction was easy—all you have to do is sit in front of a blank page and bleed.” Livira snorted. “Yute said there was a people who took that literally. They wrote everything in blood, which he felt was trying too hard, but perhaps a good way to conserve paper and make sure you get to the point quickly.

Book Quote - Would it really take a vengeful god to bring them all to ruin, or was it simply a case of anding sharp knives to toddlers and waiting for the bleeding to start?
Book Quote – The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

Thematic gravitas

Great fantasy novels typically give nods to, or cameo, real-world societal issues. But in The Book That Wouldn’t Burn the challenges of racism, bigotry and political corruption is overt and Mark Lawrence digs deep in his exploration of these themes. The effect is highly thought-provoking and moving reading. Be prepared… this conclusion really tugs at the heart strings.

Yes, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is kind of chunky at 576 pages. But do not let that put you off, because the fast-paced plotting and alternating narrative perspectives make this novel a genuine page-turner.

“A good book invites the reader in,’ Livira said. ‘The writer’s only half the equation.” 

I wholeheartedly recommend all bookish souls join Livira on this hauntingly memorable journey through their library and time.

BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5

Get your copy of The Book The Wouldn’t Burn from:

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The Lie That Broke The World (Book 2, The Library Trilogy) is scheduled for publication in 2024. But, fellow fans will be pleased to hear that Mark Lawrence has just released a novella intended to be read between Books 1 and 2, aptly titled Overdue.

More The Book That Wouldn’t Burn reviews

“The most tightly plotted novel I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading…it’s truly magnificent.” – BookRiot

“This tale of knowledge and its cost flies by thanks to the gripping mystery and beautiful worldbuilding…Readers will be desperate for more.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Gripping, earnest, and impeccably plotted.” – Kirkus (starred review)

“A fantastic setting, a feisty heroine, and hints of a deeper mystery that calls to mind the depths of Frank Herbert’s Dune and its intertwined cultural and religious issues.” Library Journal

More The Book That Wouldn’t Burn Book Quotes

“The knowledge that he couldn’t possibly read all the books on offer put a peculiar pressure on choosing his next read. There must be diamonds out there, the best book in a thousand, the best book in a million, and sure he didn’t want to waste his time reading on that was merely adequate when he could be reading one of those diamonds? So instead he often wasted his time hunting for a read instead of reading.”

Book Quote - It's always the books you don't have that call to you, you know that. Not the ones on your shelf. They can wait.
Book Quote

“Without guilt we would all be monsters. And memory is the ink with which we list our crimes.” 

“All of us steal our lives. A little here, a little there. Some of it given, most of it taken. We wear ourselves like a coat of many patches, fraying at the edges, in constant repair. While we shore up one belief, we let go another. We are the stories we tell to ourselves. Nothing more.” 

“Many objects are an inherent invitation. A sharp edge invites you to cut. A coin wishes to be spent. A sword begs for violence. A door requires that you try to open it.” 

About the Author, Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. After earning a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College London, he went back to the US to work on a variety of research projects, including the “Star Wars” missile-defense program. Since returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory.

He never had any ambition to be a writer, so he was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. His first trilogy, The Broken Empire, has been universally acclaimed as a groundbreaking work of fantasy, and both Emperor of Thorns and The Liar’s Key have won the David Gemmell Legend Award for best fantasy novel. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.

* My receiving an uncorrected digital copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.