Oddly Specific Subgenres: Fantasy Books About Growing Up in a Magical Library

Is it just me or is there something especially dreamy about the idea of growing up in a magical library? Maybe that’s just my book nerd talking (it’s definitely my book nerd talking), but stories about people who spent their childhood as a ward of the library really appeal to me. My own memories of afternoons at the library growing up hold a special place in my heart. So while it may not be a proper subgenre on its own, for my fellow library-loving book nerds, may I present 5 great fantasy books about characters growing up in magical libraries.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Sorcery is evil. Raised as a foundling at one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth knows this just as surely as she knows the books she guards and protects are dangerous and deadly. Magical grimoires whisper and rattle from the shelves. But when an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire shortly after a sorcerer visits the library, Elisabeth acts quickly to prevent it from destroying the nearby town. Instead of being rewarded for her bravery, she is blamed and taken to stand trial in the capital. Nathaniel Thorn, the visiting sorcerer now acting as her escort and captor, reveals there is more to the world–and magic–than Elisabeth has been taught.

This is maybe my favorite example of a magical library because the books and the library are so integral to the plot. Elisabeth’s upbringing at the library isn’t just backstory, it’s instrumental to the plot. And a library that guards dangerous magical grimoires? Come on, that is too cool to pass up.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Echo is a runaway living sequestered–and protected–in a library cared for by the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers and magic. They remain hidden to all humans but one: the little girl they saved. But an age-old war threatens to destroy the only family Echo has ever known.

A magical book with incredible world building, The Girl at Midnight is reminiscent of Laini Taylor and Cass Morgan, though still an incredible read in it’s own right. And it’s starring a girl who lives in a secret room in the library–that’s the dream.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Lazlo Strange was a foundling raised by monks, obsessed with stories, until he was tasked with delivering manuscripts to the Great Library of Zozma. He never left. Apprenticing himself to a librarian at the age of thirteen, he eventually became a junior librarian. By day, he assists in the library. By night, he works on his own manuscripts about fairy tales and the lost city of Weep. Others claim it is only a myth, but when the legendary Godslayer and a group mighty warriors come seeking help to restore Weep to its former glory, Lazlo proves himself worthy as perhaps the only true scholar of the forgotten city across the desert.

Though Lazlo and the others quickly venture beyond the borders of Zozma, the Great Library is a memorable location in a duology full of mythic places and palatial structures. Lazlo’s upbringing isn’t the dreamiest, but I can image worse places to grow up than a library full of fairy tales.

The Strange Library by by Haruki Murakami, translated byTed Goossen, and illustrated by Chip Kidd

Does it count as growing up in a library if you’re imprisoner there by a strange old man who wants to eat your knowledge-soaked brain? Let’s go with yes. The Strange Library is as bizarre and philosophical as any Murakami story should be. The short story is broken up by full color illustrations as a young boy gets trapped in a cell of the library’s labyrinth basement by an old man, a guard wearing sheepskin, and a beautiful girl.

This story differs a lot from most of the others on this list in that the whole living-in-a-library situation is less than pleasant. Instead of being a mysterious, magical upbringing, it’s more of a nightmare.

The Libyrinth by Pearl North

In the distant future, Libyrarians like Haly are dedicated to preserving and protecting the knowledge passed down from their ancestors in the endless maze of books known as the Libyrinth. Caught in the middle of a vast war for knowledge between those looking to protect the Libyrinth and those trying to eradicate it, Haly begins to see that the conflict is not as cut and dry as she was raised to believe. The Eradicants are not simply book burning monsters who believe the written word is evil. But will one young Libyrarians–even equipped with the powerful stories she knows–be enough to bring an end to this conflict before the quest for knowledge destroys everything for good?

What’s your favorite story about someone growing up in a magical library? Any great reads missing from this list? Let us know in the comments!

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