Mikkel Birkegaard was born in 1968 in Denmark where he still lives. He is a computer engineer by profession as well as a writer. His debut novel, The Library Of Shadows, which became an instant bestseller, was first published in Birkegaard’s native country in 2007. The English version was published in 2009, followed by several other translations.
Mikkel Birkegaard says about his novel, The Library Of Shadows, that he worked on it for seven years, wrote it in two years, reworked it for two more years and then looked for a publisher for the next three years following many refusals.
The Library Of Shadows begins with the demise of the Italian, Luca Campelli, the librarian and owner of the old antiquarian bookshop called “Libri di Luca”, situated in the centre of Copenhagen. Luca Campelli, who has just returned home after a business trip, dies brutally in very mysterious circumstances soon after his arrival, while reading a book late at night in his store.
Following Luca’s death, there is an arson attempt on the same premises, which will intrigue the only inheritor to the business, Campelli’s son, the thirty-three-year-old Jon.
Father and son have been estranged for twenty years following the puzzling suicide of the wife and mother, Mrs Marianne Campelli. Jon is half Italian, half Danish. He is a successful lawyer working for a prominent law firm.
After what happened to both his parents, Jon finds himself obliged to dedicate his time searching for his family’s history. Through his research he discovers that for many years his father had been holding secret meetings with an extraordinary group of book lovers, having considerable powers inherited from the time of the renowned, monumental library of ancient Alexandria, Egypt.
Unearthing his father’s long and uncommon underground bibliophile society exposes Jon to a rival clandestine book circle with similar magic powers. They are called “the Shadow Organisation”, led by a dubious, wealthy businessman named Remer, who will try to destroy Jon and his new friends.
Remer fails in his endeavour and finds that Jon is a powerful medium. Consequently, the power- thirsty Remer attempts to manipulate Jon’s mind to have him join his community to enhance their power greatly for criminal purposes. Remer is hoping to gain control by taking on evil supremacy over the world and influencing its leaders for his own benefit.
The author explains that there are the Lectors or transmitters, like old Iversen, Luca’s long-time faithful assistant at Libri di Luca, Jon, Luca’s son and Remer, leader of the opponent’s group.
Through their reading, these Lectors influence their listeners’ feelings and perceptions regarding the text read by charging it with whatever emphasis they desire. They control their listeners’ thinking by generating pleasant, colourful, life-like images which transport them inside the world of their story.
To succeed in fulfilling this endeavour, the choice of texts is essential. “Fiction is more effective than non-fiction and the quality of the work is also significant (…) certain books become ‘charged’ when they are read, so that the text presentation becomes stronger – more effective at communicating the message and emotions it contains. Older and frequently read volumes are therefore more powerful than new, unread copies”.
The second type is the Receivers, like the red-haired, severely dyslexic young Katherina, Luca’s protégée. She has the ability to tune into people whenever they read, whether aloud or silently to themselves.
The intensity of a Transmitter reading can have a significant influence on the Receiver, who amplifies the text, rendering it very persuasive. The combination of a Transmitter versus Receiver can be extremely high-powered.
The Library Of Shadows is a very original, captivating mystery. It is a supernatural thriller as well as an esoteric fantasy fiction of people born with exceptional powers. The writing is smooth, easy to read, but there are some unfortunate lengthy parts which could have been avoided.
The third-person narration is mainly by the two likeable protagonists, the lovers; Jon and Katherina. On the opposite side, there are the detestable, Machiavellian Remer and his faithful minion and spy, Pau. The characters are well developed and feel real on both sides, whether heroes or villains. The action scenes are skillfully and vividly described.
The Library Of Shadows is a fascinating novel aimed at book lovers by placing the books in the foreground as the main characters. The story subject is the magical power of reading. I am questioning what would happen if reading could take people far beyond what they think, creating disturbing or enjoyable as well as unexplainable events? A thought-provoking book.