Cover Image: The Book That Wouldn’t Burn

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I loved what this story was trying to be but I felt like it could be more refined. The writing style was enjoyable but could have been greater. I did find it very hard to get into this novel, but not because it didn't have a great idea. I personally just didn't connect, however for those who enjoy a blend of fiction, sci-fi and fantasy this would be a great read.

Thanks NetGalley and publisher for this ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Gorgeous very long fantasy novel, set in and around a library (but a library that's stranger than any you've encountered before). Features portals, time-weirdness, books, machines. Very propulsive and engaging despite its length, and full of beautiful moments - and some very confusing moments, but confusing in a GOOD way.
Was this review helpful?
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.

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.

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.

Continue reading at
Was this review helpful?
Another enjoyable fantasy from Mark Lawrence. Beautifully written and very immersive.. I couldn’t stop reading.
Was this review helpful?
One of the world’s inventive and compelling fantasy authors returns with one of his best novels yet, the highly addictive and ambitious novel, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn, which sets off his new The Library trilogy.

Throughout the world, there is nothing more important, more significant, nor more permanent than the library.  Built inside a mountain near the great city of Crath, the library contains an impossible number of books fitted within innumerable rooms that no one person can access.  The sheer amount of knowledge contained within the library represents the greatest power in the world, allowing its keepers and the King of Crath to wield great control in the world.  Into this vast and elaborate repository of knowledge and secrets, two young people are about to meet in unusual circumstances.

Livira is a young girl raised in the Dust, the desolate wasteland that surrounds Crath.  Plucky, curious, and incapable of giving up, Livira is a rarity among her people as she seeks to know more about the world outside her home.  But when the alien sabbers destroy her village and kill her people, Livira finds herself lost in the wilderness.  Rescued and brought to Crath, Livira soon becomes certain that her future lies in the library.  Overcoming prejudice and her own humble background, Livira learns to navigate the library and soon begins to find out some of its deeper secrets.  However, the most mysterious of these might be another strange inhabitant of the library, Evar.

Evar and his small family have known nothing but the library their entire lives.  Released after unknown eons frozen as children inside the library’s mysterious Mechanism, Evar and his siblings have grown up in a vast chamber of the library, learning from the books and becoming masters of specialised subjects.  However, Evar has always desired more and has long tried to find a way to leave their book filled prison.  His discovery of a portal within his home soon leads him to a place outside of time where he meets an exploring Livira.  Together, the two attempt to find the true history of the library and the threats it has withstood over the years.  But dark evils haunt the library, and soon the two explorers must find a way to uncover the truth behind the sabbers, their own history, and other deadly threats waiting for them in the future.  Can these two children of the library survive the revelations in front of them, or will the truth tear them apart in ways they can’t even understand?

Well damn, now this was a seriously impressive and epic book.  Lawrence has honestly outdone himself here with this incredible read, and this might be one of the best books he is ever written, which is saying something.  The Book That Wouldn’t Burn features one of the most elaborate settings and narratives you are likely to see in fantasy fiction, and this results in a powerful and moving read that will keep you guessing time and time again.  I had an exceptional time reading The Book That Wouldn’t Burn, and it would be impossible for me to give it anything less than a five-star rating.

To see the full review, click on the link below:

An abridged review of this book also ran in the Canberra Weekly on 8 June 2023:

For other exciting reviews and content, check out my blog at:
Was this review helpful?
Thank you NetGalley for the access to this book. Love love loved this book! So much so I bought a paperback edit for my shelf!
The characters were enjoyable and the story was just easy to follow.
Was this review helpful?
I felt bad that I missed the deadline on this before it was archived. So I went and brought a physical copy for my shelves. 
I will upload a review online soon.
Was this review helpful?
📚 I loved this book! Please read it so we can discuss everything. 

Firstly, let me state the obvious - the cover is gorgeous! That was what drew me in initially and the content was more than what I could have hoped for.
It was the perfect mix of exciting fantasy, discussions about books and libraries, and reflections on civilisations and people.
I found myself laughing at in-jokes about library indexing and interested in discussions about who gets to organise and access knowledge. The writing was beautiful and at times so poetic. There were sections that perfectly expressed how I feel about books and rooms full of books 💞 

I found myself invested in each of the characters, feeling anxiety for them at each twist and turn of the plot. And oh there is a big one! It was executed so well, it perfectly rounded out one of the key themes of the story about good and evil. It's easy to forget nothing is simply black and white, it is always important to be reminded of the grey areas.
Plus there are some fantastic animalish characters that I fell in love with, whose names are perfection 🤌🏻 

Definitely added to my favourite books of all time! I'm ready for a reread 🥰

No pressure, but you really should read this book! 😍😁
Was this review helpful?
The Book that Wouldn’t Burn will henceforth be known to me as The Book That Destroyed My Reading Schedule. I normally get through a novel every 2 to 3 days, but this has taken me 18, despite flying literally half way round the world and suffering horrible jet lag/insomnia during that time. It’s not because I’ve read anything else at the same time either. It’s both far too long, (576 pages)  and very very slow, so every few pages, I’d be stopping to browse the net or checking messages, and I’ve had major Reading Procrastination Syndrome - very unlike me. This is a shame because it sounded like a great story, even though I’m not much of a fantasy fan, and I’ve enjoyed previous books by this author. I didn’t hate it, and Livira is an intriguing character, but I was bored for most of it, and resent all the books I’ve had to defer so I could get through it.

Livira is a ten year old orphan who has grown up in the care of her aunt in a small desert settlement. She’s fierce and mischievous, but no match for the brutal wolf-men known as Sabbers who descend on them one day, slaying the adults and kidnapping the children. She is taken to the busy city of Crath and trained to work in its endless magical library. Evar is a young man who has grown up inside the library with his adopted siblings, raised by two inanimate carers. When they meet, a bond develops which will transcend time.

This complex story was well written although I found the world building rather confusing at times. This is fantasy in the sense that there are non-human intelligent species, magic portals, sword fights,    supernatural beings and forms of AI, despite the unspecified time period being pre-industrial, but the only typical Fantasy trope is the multi-talented orphan with a Special Destiny. Similarly, this features a love story but it’s not a typical Romance plot. It’s the start of a trilogy, so be aware the story is not complete, although I wouldn’t call the ending a cliffhanger. There are a lot of minor characters to remember, many with similar names eg Mayland, Malar and Meelan - I thought there might be a reason for this, but if there is I missed it.

Livira is developed enough to make Evar’s feelings for her believable, but the reverse is not true. There’s way too much time spent wandering around the library and not nearly enough action for me. I did like the various twists that I did not see coming. Had it not been an ARC I would have abandoned it as Just Not For Me, and I missed the publication date by a couple of weeks, which hasn’t happened to me in over a year. It didn’t help that it was only available on the NetGalley app, which is a complete pain to read on, especially as there’s no search feature, something I find essential with ebooks nowadays.

While I can’t say I enjoyed this, it is a good story and does have lots of 5 star reviews, so if this is your genre, you like the author and you aren’t put off by my criticism, do give it a go. I doubt I will have the stamina to get through the rest of the trilogy, which is a shame as I would like to know what happens next. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Australia, I am posting this honest review voluntarily. The Book that Wouldn’t Burn is available now.
Was this review helpful?
I was drawn to this book for a variety of reasons - cover, title, world building and promise of an epic fantasy - to name but a few. Settings such as the dust settlement and library were rich and well presented. The characters were engaging particularly that of Livira I found to be really interesting. There were just so many great ideas with a  unique premise. The varying themes of the types of societies and corruption, friendship and sacrifice, were all so cleverly portrayed. Unfortunately for me I found the middle parts long and drawn out and honestly, I was a bit confused with the plot until well into the book. Great writing from such a compelling idea yet perhaps too complex and therefore I became a bit lost as it became rather complicated. 

So even with the promise of a great library, protectors of stories, the power of books and a fantasy of epic proportions, sadly it did not reel me in.  I am sure other readers will revel in this complex tale. 

‘The scent of the place hit her immediately, infinitely complex. Like most smells, the aroma of books was neither good nor bad. Scent is a peg on which memories are hung.’
Was this review helpful?
This book was outstanding. This is my second book I've read by Mark Lawrence, many years ago I tried Prince of Thorns and didn't care for it, therefore I thought he wasn't the author for me. However this book makes me want to go back and read his other trilogies. 

We follow two perspectives, Livira and Evar and we seem them as they are living their lives surrounded by two very different libraries. I don't want to give too much away because I went into this story blind and encourage everyone else to do so too. The only two things I will say is that the prose is exquisite and the plot is exceptional. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre I think you should give this one a go, the prose will keep you going until the story takes off. 

Full marks for this book. While it is a part of a trilogy it feels like a stand alone at the end of book 1.
Was this review helpful?
“We’re all the story we tell about ourselves….That’s all anyone ever is – the story they tell, and the stories told about them.”

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is the beginning of an ambitious new fantasy series by Mark Lawrence. 

Within the city of Crath is the Atheneum, an infinite labyrinth that holds one copy of every book that has ever been written. The Library, it is said, is the source of truth, and whomever controls it, rules the kingdom. But the Library has its own power, and cedes none.

Livira lives in the Dust outside the walls of Crath. When her village is attacked by Sabber’s she expects to die, instead she is rescued, and with the intervention of Deputy Head Yute, is admitted as an Atheneum trainee, the first of her kind.

Evar lives in a sealed chamber deep within the Library, it is the only place he has ever known. With him are Clovis, Kerrol, Starval and Mayland, not related by blood but siblings nevertheless, watched over by automatons, The Soldier and The Assistant.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Livira and Evar, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn unfolds at a good pace. It takes some time before the two protagonists intersect as the story weaves through the present, the past, and the future, in unexpected ways. 

Livira, whose name means ‘weed’, is a wonderfully entertaining protagonist. Despite her outsider status, Livira earns the loyalty of friends, and refuses to give quarter to those who wish to see her fail. Curious, Intelligent, tenacious, and a little reckless, the secrets of the Library are a puzzle she is determined to solve.

Evar, who unlike his siblings has no memory of his life before the Library, is a somewhat melancholy figure, longing for something he can’t name. While Clovis, Kerrol, Starval, and Mayland all possess an obvious skill, seemingly a gift of the Mechanism that brought them to the chamber, Evar believes he has none but what they have taught him. 

Exploring themes such as tradition, knowledge, power, truth, memory, war and xenophobia, our current reality is often reflected in Lawrence’s fantasy. I highlighted several blocks of text that struck me as I read, particularly those about the use, and misuse, of information.

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn is, of course, also an ode to the magic of reading, books, literature, and libraries. The Atheneum is in many ways a character itself, an infinite labyrinth of secrets, cared for by android-like guides, including a delightful mechanical raven, with their own mysterious agenda. It makes for an extraordinary setting that will appeal to any booklover.

I was taken aback by several clever twists in the plot, some of which genuinely surprised me. The story’s secrets remain elusive until the exact moment that Lawrence reveals them. There is plenty of action, from brief skirmishes to panicked chases, that accelerates as the end draws near to a cliffhanger ending. Though Livira is the more compelling character, there are moments of triumph, and of heartbreak, in both perspectives that support suspense and interest. Romance plays a low key role in the story, but there is a lot of heart in the relationships between allies.

Having not read anything by Mark Lawrence before I was pleased to find his prose is often lyrical and evocative, given to thought-provoking turns of phrase. There is also wit, warmth, and glimpses of self awareness in the writing. At times there is repetition in the narrative, but it’s only a minor issue.

A complex, intriguing, and utterly enchanting novel, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn delivers an absorbing read, and promises more to come.
Was this review helpful?
Firstly, thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for letting me read and review The Book That Wouldn't Burn by Mark Lawrence.

If you're a fan of R. F. Kuang's: Babel, I heavily believe you would enjoy Mark Lawrence's: The Book That Wouldn't Burn. 

The story begins alongside Livira, a young girl who is both brave and curious, wanting to escape to a city she has only ever heard stories of, none of which can she know if they're truth or lie. As the reader I felt I discovered Liviras world along side her. I found myself asking the same questions she had on her journey, and likewise being frustrated when neither of us got the answers we seeked. I love having these types of connections with main characters, if done well, I can picture myself in the authors creative world, and Mark Lawrence did this exceptionally well.

I loved the prose this story told. Knowledge can be power, but knowing how to use the knowledge at your disposal is the real power. Livira's escapades taught us this, taught us how people may say they want truth, yet only wish to see evidence supporting their truth; and that not everything written is, in fact, truth. Perceptions can change and influence everyone's individual truth. And Livira shows as she progresses, that there is nothing more dangerous than an influenced truth.

The Book That Wouldn't Burn left me intrigued each step of the way. I did start to get a little confused towards the end, however things really tied up nicely in a way that made sense, yet also left me hanging and wanting the sequel.
Was this review helpful?
This was a little slower to start for my tastes (which I fully understand due to the necessary world-building), but once it got going, it *really* got going with all the action, mystery and clever plot twists. The library setting was so magical and fascinating, and I definitely ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would when I first started.

It did admittedly get a little convoluted for me in some parts, just because I'm the sort of reader who doesn't like to think too deeply while I read for enjoyment. But I have no doubt that most readers who enjoy their scifi, dystopian and fantasy would find this an absolute treat.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Australia for this eARC!
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to the Publishers and NetGalley for an ARC of this title.

I love me a bit of Mark Lawrence. So when I saw he had a new series coming out, I could not wait to snap that bad boy up. And a new book by Mark Lawrence about a somewhat mysterious all consuming library. So much yes.

The two main stories in this book is that of Evar and Livira. They are both different, fascinating and wonderful and help to expand on the third main character, the library. And what characters they are!

Basically, if you like fantasy, just read this book. I can't wait to see where this series goes.
Was this review helpful?
I really loved this book, the characters were so interesting and I really developed a deep connection with them throughout the book. The pace throughout the story was entertaining and kept me engaged, which I was surprised at considering the size of the book. I can’t wait to check out the rest of Mark’s books!
Was this review helpful?
A book full of adventure and twists that make you tilt your head and squint your eyes. It was so well written I found myself flying through the whole thing. If curious was a person it would be Livira!! So many exciting moments and I can't wait to see what else this author has in store for a possible sequel!?
Was this review helpful?
Phew, I don't know how to describe this. It defies categorisation into one genre. It's an epic. A tale across hundreds of years, in one library, the story of a handful of people and one book. I am overwhelmed that this is only the first instalment in the trilogy.

It has elements of science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, romance. It's wryly witty in places, tells of histories and long forgotten fables. My favourite parts are the slightly altered quotes from popular culture, as if they have been altered by thousands of years of retelling in the fictional Library.

Favourite quotes:

* "We humans are herd animals. When several gather to browse in one spot, more will come. Few places offer more eloquent testimony to this fact than does a library, wherein our focus ensures some few books scarcely touch the shelves from the moments of their binding until the day they fall apart from overuse. Whiles all around, in sullen silence, the unloved show their spines in endless rows, aching for the touch that never comes" - The Art of the Index, by Dr H Worblehood.

* "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."

* "Some words are so suited to their task that they keep their role within scores of tongues. Some sentiments transcend language"
Was this review helpful?
Drawn in from start to finish. An absolute gem! Only downside is the Netgally app used for the review copy. I love the plot/storyline and development. 

I struggle to read on a device since I’m on it most of the time to study and work. I prefer a printed copy. However only had the digital option.

Non the less this book was magical from the cover to content… If you’re looking for spoilers I’m not going to write any… Because you need to discover the magic in this book yourself! 

Come on stop reading reviews and go get yourself a copy to read!
Was this review helpful?
This book was an atmospheric read and one best suited for those who adore books which bring a specific vibe and let you baske in that for a long time.

Let’s try to explain what I mean…

The first 30-40 pages were so vague that it felt like I was moving around a dark room. It was so dark that I couldn’t see a thing. Every so often as I was feeling my way to find the light switch I would run my hands along and feel something. Like a book case, I could tell it was a book case but had no idea what it looked like or how many books it contained. I didn’t know its colour, how high it reached, where it was in the room or how sturdy it was.

As I moved into the next 150 pages the light turned on, but it was a spotlight which magnified everything. There were so many details about seemingly basic things. I now saw a book, and knew how big it was, its colours, title, author, whether it had pictures. I knew it’s smell, the sound as I opened it, what was on every single page, where it was placed on the bookshelf, which books it was placed next to… there was so much to learn about this one book.

I longed for the plot to move forward, I prefer a book which takes me on a journey. I felt like I was still standing still watching the world around me in a single moment up, even 250 pages in.

I craved a connection with the characters, I like my characters to feel like real friends (or foes) where I am completely invested in their journey. Although I found myself interested in Livira and her journey from the basic life in the dust where the focus was on surviving to her new life in the library full of learning and opportunity, I still wasn’t invested.

I have stopped reading this book at 38% as it is not something that I can finish at this time. I believe that I will come back to it one day.

This book will be a firm favourite for so many readers, I can see how well it is written, I can see how the slow pace and the mystery will appeal to many. I hope that those reading this review will give it a go.

Thank you Netgalley, the Author and the Publisher for the ARC of this book. I have chosen to write a review which is all my own thoughts.
Was this review helpful?