I want to identify a YA (I think) book I read a few years ago.

It was set in the real world, but a few decades in the past, because nobody had phones or computers.

The protagonist was a girl (I think her name was Alice?) sent to live with a man who I'm pretty was her uncle or grandpa. He had a giant, maze-like library in his house, and there were hexagonal formations of bookshelves that have parts of other worlds in the middle.

There are special books that are prisons for magical creatures. The girl meets someone else in the library and realizes that she's a Reader, which means that she can go into these books and fight whatever's trapped inside, and if she wins she can use the abilities of the creatures.

There are creatures called labyrinthines, which create/live in mazes. The girl meets one named Dragon, who is a dragon, in a book and he lets her defeat him. The one living in her uncle/grandpa's library is a panther, or some other kind of big cat. At one point many labyrinthines escape from...somewhere, and they start turning every place into an ever-changing maze. News outlets dismiss the whole thing as mass hysteria.

I believe it was a series, with around five books, and I think the title had the word "library" in it?

Some other random memories:

The girl has a conversation with another Reader that goes something like: Other person: "Hey, cool, you're a Reader!" Protagonist: "Of course I read, what do you mean?"

At one point she tries to use abilities from two creatures at once, and she compares it to tying both her shoes at the same time.

At one point in one of the later books, she and her friends are in a castle-maze, and there's a cylindrical room with grass on the entire curved part of the cylinder, and gravity is all weird, so they're always walking on the grass.

Some of the creatures she gets abilities from:

  • A swarm of tiny black birds called The Swarm
  • A tree monster with green skin and armor made of bark
  • Dragon the labyrinthine

That's all I remember.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. When was "a few years ago?" The actual year you read it is much more useful. Do you recall any details of the cover art?
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 22:32
  • If "nobody had phones" it must have been set more than a few decades ago, as the telephone was invented in 1876.
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like The Forbidden Library series by Django Wexler, a series of four (rather than five) books dealing with the adventures of a young girl called Alice, who after her father disappears is sent to live with her uncle.

From a goodreads review:

The plot follows main protagonist Alice, a young girl who discovers she has a very special power. Called "Readers", people like Alice possess the ability to enter the worlds of certain books, which might seem great at first, until you realize these books serve as prisons to nasty creatures and the only way out again is if the Reader can defeat them.

I can also confirm the presences of dragons, and the magical creatures called "labyrinthines".

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