This month we are welcomed back to the world of bookwandering in the fifth and penultimate Pages & Co novel from Anna James, The Treehouse Library. But what’s this? Everybody’s favorite almost-fictional character, Tilly Pages, is not the driving force of this story! We pick up where the fourth book left off, with Milo Bolt and the mysterious Alessia della Porta. Through Milo and Alessia we get to continue exploring this reimagined world of books, through further travels on the Quip, a train propelled by the power of imagination.
Milo Bolt, the nephew of the formidable and conflicting Horatio Bolt, is ready to be the main protagonist in his own life. Sneaking away from Pages & Co with Alessia, Milo learns how to drive the Quip and goes in search of the Botanist, in the hopes of finding a cure for his poisoned Uncle, and to put an end to the nefarious work of the Alchemist, Alessia’s father. Their search for the Botanist leads them to her home, a magical treehouse library in the northern woods of England.
Since being introduced to Pages & Co in 2019 with the debut novel The Bookwanderers, I have been utterly entranced by the world created by Anna James. A woman who loves books and the places they reside in, who understands the sheer magic of reading and creating stories. At first blush I was a little disoriented with The Treehouse Library, and disheartened to have a Pages & Co story without Tilly as the focus, but those feelings were gone within a few short chapters as James used her skill and poetic narrative to weave the reader into Milo’s tale, Milo’s world, Milo’s emotional journey.
Milo and the Botanist take us into the pages of nonsense with Edward Lear, a place that Tilly and Oscar had not previously encountered. Entering a nonsense poem certainly does help emphasize the importance of jumping into the ‘story” at the right point. And while the Jabberwocky certainly takes center stage, it was their journey into The Owl and the PussyCat that tugged at my heartstrings. This is something I remember learning as a child and while I can no longer recite the poem, it felt wonderfully like going home again, as all good stories do.
James has a gift for joining her stories with the wit and whimsy of the stories her characters bookwander into, and in The Treehouse Library we are led into the world of Robin Hood. I enjoyed how the characters focused on Friar Tuck, and it was Alessia’s interaction with the good Friar that showed us more of her character than we had previously seen. The moral ambiguity she inherited from her infamous father is certainly useful in situations like this, but it remains to be seen whether this will help or hinder Milo as the story progresses in the finale.
While there is plenty from the previous books to keep us interested, The Treehouse Library finally introduces us in person to The Botanist, a heretofore almost mythical character. Referred to by Horatio and The Alchemist frequently. Until we meet her, we aren’t quite sure whether she will be a force for good, bad, or indifferent. One of the things James does really well is illustrate the idea that your perspective greatly affects whether you see yourself as the good guy or bad guy in the story. The Botanist, is neither and both of these things, and is certainly unlike anyone we have encountered before.
We are also able to return to the Underlibrary in this book and discover what has happened there in the wake of the nefarious Underwoods. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to this amazing place than we have seen in previous stories. And the discovery that there is both a “Lost Property Office” and a “Lost Properly Office” is absolutely delightful.
The ending of this story left me speechless with anticipation for the next and final installment. I was literally sitting on my couch fist pumping into the air. I cannot talk about it without giving a ridiculous amount of spoilers, so many things happen in the final few pages. It combines all of my favorite elements of things introduced by James over four Pages & Co novels, and of so many of my favorite things about magic and literature. Literally fist pumping into the air. The next book comes out later this year in the UK and I simply cannot wait.
Pages & Co has been optioned for television by Element Pictures. Element Pictures produced The Favourite starring Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, and Room starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. So now I can spend the time between the fifth and sixth books coming up with my dream cast.
Pages & Co: The Treehouse Library is on sale in the US on February 28th wherever books are sold. GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.