The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence


Two strangers find themselves connected by a vast and mysterious library containing many wonders and still more secrets, in this powerfully moving first book in a new series from the international bestselling author of Red Sister and Prince of Thorns.

The boy has lived his whole life trapped within a book-choked chamber older than empires and larger than cities.

The girl has been plucked from the outskirts of civilization to be trained as a librarian, studying the mysteries of the great library at the heart of her kingdom.

They were never supposed to meet. But in the library, they did.

Their stories spiral around each other, across worlds and time. This is a tale of truth and lies and hearts, and the blurring of one into another. A journey on which knowledge erodes certainty and on which, though the pen may be mightier than the sword, blood will be spilled and cities burned.


This book first caught my attention when a friend posted his review on a blog he works with. I was instantly captivated by the title, and I knew this was one I had to read.

Another reason the title caught my attention was because it reminded me of one of my favorite books. Fahrenheit 451 was a book that changed my life, and this title instantly brought me back to Guy Montag’s struggle against repressed information and finding his humanity.

Then there were the similarities between some of the concepts in the books and my own work. The books I write feature a world where writing disappears when the writer dies and the relationship that has with the truth.

I was hoping this book would meet me where I was at and hit upon the themes of lost knowledge, censorship, the role books play in our lives…and so many other hopes that I didn’t think the book could live up to.

It did.

It did more than that.

It challenged me to think more about the world and my place in it, and that is exactly what I want out of a great book.

Until now, I had never read a book by Mark Lawrence and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was aware of his other work and I think I bounced off Prince of Thorns once (though I do that to a lot of books and often love the ones I come back to).

Most of my knowledge of Mr. Lawrence was his role with SPFBO, and that made me curious to see what his writing was like. His writing style was smooth and beautiful and the characters were fully realized people that had real struggles and desires and personalities.

It’s easy to say a book is beautiful and the characterization is well done, but it is another thing entirely to measure the impact it has on you.

There were times I nearly cried when reading this book, and there are only two other books I can think of that brought me this close: The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Legacy of The Brightwash by Krystle Matar.

It brought out some intense emotions in me to say the least. Some of my favorites were the times I literally stopped and thought, “damn, how come I can’t write like that?”

Oh, and I also loved the twists, and even though there were several I guessed ahead of time (because I threw out nearly a million theories) it was all still satisfying and amazing to see how it played out.

I also loved the little touches that the library had: alternate versions of familiar quotes (I believe there was a Hemingway), the intricate systems it relied on to exist that made it all make an odd sort of sense, and the way perception could play an important role in the way people experienced it.

Someone on Twitter told me this wasn’t a top 5 book or even a top 5 Mark Lawrence book when I was admittedly gushing about it.

Here’s the thing. Like Livira I found the right book at the right time, and for whatever reason it felt like it was made exactly for me.

I’ll be checking out more Mark Lawrence, but this for sure is one I won’t forget.

Your mileage may vary with this one. I know a couple people who are great readers that felt like it was slow, but that was not my experience at all. Besides there is no running in a library (except sometimes in this one).