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Late one night Alice Creighton hears her father having an argument with a fairy - a snarling, bald beast with warts and needle-like teeth. The next day her father disappears, never to return. And Alice is sent to live with Master Geryon, an uncle she never even knew existed. Geryon has a dark, mysterious library which is strictly off-limits to Alice. But after meeting a talking cat who is willing to sneak her in, Alice opens a book and suddenly finds herself inside it - and the only way out is by conquering the dangerous creatures within . . .
Old Readers are supposed to live for ever, magically inhabiting the spaces between stories. They're not supposed to die. But they can be murdered. When an ancient Reader is killed, seemingly by his own apprentice, the hierarchy of the magical world tumbles and its spider web of alliances begin to unravel. Now it's up to Alice and the remaining apprentices to sort out the mess and catch the murderer. But the world is changing all around them. Things are not as they seem. It's almost as if they are trapped in a strange sort of labyrinth . . .
For Alice, danger threatens from inside the library as well as out. Having figured out the role her master and uncle, Geryon, played in her father's disappearance, Alice turns to Ending - the mysterious, magical giant feline and guardian of Geryon's library - for a spell to incapacitate Geryon. But, like all cats, Ending is adept at keeping secrets and Alice doesn't know the whole story. Once she traps Geryon with Ending's spell, there's no one to stop the other Readers from sending their apprentices to pillage Geryon's library. As Alice prepares to face an impending attack from the combined might of the Readers, she gathers what forces she can - the apprentices she once thought might be her friends, the magical creatures imprisoned in Geryon's library - not knowing who, if anyone, she can trust.