Don't all librarians have super powers?
Alex is struggling as the apprentice to an elderly librarian at a castle filled with old, musty diaries and laundry lists, and when Master Farnsworth dies under suspicious circumstances, the Dowager Duchess Purslane has had enough of him and sends him away. Not wanting to go back to his militaristic family, he forges the duchess' signature to obtain lodging and supplies, and journeys to Aethel, where the librarian has noticed books acting in a strange way. He secures a trial period until the end of the month from Queen Kenneret, who is very young and under the thrall of her Uncle Patch. Alex finds the library in an advanced state of disrepair, and sets to work putting things right. As he does so, he comes across more books, all with a strange symbol on them, that seem to have a mind of their own. He also uncovers evidence of a horrible historical event sixty years in the past that dealt with "L.B."s, and was devastating. He often runs afoul of Kenneret (he takes supplies since she won't give them to him), but she is impressed with his dedication. When her younger brother Charlie is kicked out of school again, she apprentices him to Alex. The two don't get on until Charlie challenges Alex to a duel, and Alex proves himself to be quite capable. Uncle Patch is involved in suspicious activities, the kingdom is in a fragile state, and Kenneret has to prove herself. Will the activities in the library, and the arrival of Alex's family, prove to be far more intertwined than we could imagine? I strongly suspect a book two to be in the offing.
Kenneret and Charlie are brilliantly portrayed as well-meaning royalty who aren't quite sure what the best thing for their kingdom is. Luckily, they are open to trying. I would not be averse to a romance between the librarian and queen!
The library itself could have used more description, as well as more cups of tea by the fire, but times are dire, and we don't quite have the polished wood and gleaming rows of leather spines arranged quite yet. I will allow Alex a book or two to set things right in Aethel before getting the library whipped into shape.
Readers who loves the environment of this author's The Magic Thief or other medieval fantasy books such as Pierce's Tortall, or even the more modern Wexler's The Forbidden Library series, will enjoy imagining that they are working alongside Alex to both arrange books and help save the kingdom with swords and magic.