The second part of a trilogy usually ends at the narrative's nadir, and that was certainly the case with "The Destruction of the Books." The assault on the Vault of All Known Knowledge by Lord Kharrion's collection of Dark Riders, Grymmlings, and Boneblights not only results in the titular disaster, but sees the abduction of Grandmagister Edgewick Lamplighter. As far as First Level Librian Jugh is concerned, the preservation of what remains of the library is secondary to rescuing Wick. But it turns out the Grandmagister wanted to be taken as part of a grand design Wick and the wizard Craugh have been planning to find the pieces of "The Book of Time." Now it is up to Jugh to accomplish this task, joined by a fellowship of allies who will try to keep him alive every time he gets into another sticky situation.
By this point in the trilogy that began with "The Rover," Mel Odom will have been abandoned by those who want to reduce these books to the level of a mere Tolkien pastiche, which leaves those of us who like the fast-paced action and focus more on their uniqueness. Yes, the main characters are a halfling and a wizard, but one of the things I liked about "Lord of the Libraries" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, J.R.R.) is that Jugh does not trust Craugh, especially once he finds out about the wizard's past involving "The Book of Time" and his role in bringing about the Cataclysm of Lord Kharrion. Every single time Craugh says or does anything in this novel, Jugh has these "yes, but" thoughts that I find even more amusing than thinly veiled jokes about Budweiser commercials and the like.
I also liked the prologue to "Lord of the Libraries," in which the importance of the Vault of All Known Knowledge is underscored by the activities of Novice Librarian Dockett Butterblender in the wake of the attack. For that matter, my favorite scene in the book is when Jugh, weakened by wounds and shaking from a fever, reveals a book to someone who has never seen one before. Jugh cannot stop talking about the books in the library, the acts of the Grandmagister, and all the things that he has read about. This is key because in his heart Jugh does not want to be just a librarian, simply preserving books and the knowledge they contain. He wants to be a teacher. For Jugh, copying books so that they can be preserved is not as important as copying books so they can be shared. These stories are told in the Dark Ages of this world, but Jugh represents the hope of a true Renaissance.
A lot happens in this book. When I was within 100 pages of the end I was wondering how Odom was going to be able to play out his entire end game in so few pages, but the answer is simply that things start moving in "Lord of the Libraries" in the first chapter and they never really stop until the last one. More importantly, Odom is coming up with interesting things in virtually every chapter, so the pace is quick but the story does not remain simple. Since this is the 21st century I would say that the book reminds me of the type of computer games that I tend to play, where you go about collecting items and solving puzzles, except that there are a lot more battles to fight, where Cobner the dwarf, Jassamyun the elf, and Raisho the human who is Jugh's best friend, get to save his neck time and time again (although, to be fair, Jugh holds his own in such encounters).
"Lord of the Libraries" is a fun read that is serious enough without being pretentious, which is the pitfall of most fantasy trilogies. I appreciate the way Odom has created his own little dance in the shadow of Tolkien. Wick and Jugh might be the size of hobbits, but they have a dedication to their life's work that makes them decidedly different from Bilbo and Frodo. The work of the librarians will never end, even when you get to the final page of this novel. My only complaint is that Odom has not worked a return visit by the Embyr, the flaming female Wick encountered on his first adventure when he was shanghaied by dwarf pirates (or is it pirate dwarves?). But Odom is working on another book in this world, which takes place before "The Destruction of the Books," so I am hopeful that within the pages of that book she will make her appearance (hint, hint, hint).