When her suburban town is destroyed, Carolyn and 11 other children are given refuge in a library overseen by a man known as Father in Scott Hawkins’s The Library at Mount Char (Crown, $26). The kids are each given a catalog of information to learn about a secret of the universe: healing, language, possible futures, talking with nature or murder. Their training by Father comes at a high cost to their humanity, though, and by the time they are adults, they are powerful yet greatly damaged. One day, Father goes missing, and the 12 are locked out by a magic barrier around the library. Regaining control of their home soon becomes an epic battle of hidden allegiances, terrifying memories and unspoken threats among this strange quasi-family. For Carolyn, though, the struggle may be the only chance to get her ultimate revenge against her childhood tormentors and to win back her humanity.
“Are you good at keeping secrets?” That’s the titillating question posed to Meredith Barrett by her older sister, Marjorie, at the start of Paul Tremblay’s horror-driven novel, A Head Full of Ghosts (Morrow, $25.99). Marjorie Barrett is a supremely troubled 14-year-old. Her secret interaction with and manipulation of her younger sister walks the line between the supernatural and the psychotic. Neither a psychiatrist nor a priest can stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. Multiple levels of narrative play out in the novel as the sisters, the father, the priest — and a reality film crew — try to play their roles in Merry’s recounting of what she believes are the true events of her ordeal 15 years after a surprising family tragedy.
In Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal War (Small Beer; paperback, $16), the family one chooses is just as important as the one a person is born into. Taggert is a “Liminal,” a being who can manipulate human molecules and DNA, allowing him to both harm and heal. When his adopted daughter is kidnapped by his psychotic former mentor, Taggert will rent the fabric of time and space to make sure his daughter is found before his former master can twist her mind. While there are forces stronger than Liminals bent on stopping Taggert and his friends — a pot-smoking god and a musician who takes him back to 1970s London — they may be outmatched by Taggert’s biological daughter, Tamara, who will risk her own life to save her sister’s.
Nancy Hightower reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.
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