The Invisible Library #1
by Genevieve Cogman
Published on June 14, 2016 by Roc
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk
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Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.
One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.
London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.
Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...
When I was younger, I believed librarians were superheroes in their own realm: the library, surrounded by books. And according to Genevieve Cogman, I wasn’t far off from the truth. Granted, these Librarians aren’t the traditional sort of hero with capes and sidekicks running about saving people. Instead their goal is simple: preserve unique literature across alternate universes and through time.
Sounds like a superhero to me.
I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of The Invisible Library before. It came into my reading sphere by pure accident, in fact, but I can’t say I’m unhappy with that particular course of events. Cogman has created not one but multiple worlds centered around the mysterious Invisible Library. And in this particular story, the Librarian Irene is off to an alternate London (though nothing like the Londons of V.E. Schwab’s books)
I want to be a Librarian.
These people don’t just maintain a collection of books. They steal them. They travel to alternate universes to steal books. They’re time-traveling literary pirates! Damn right I want to join them.
The particular world for this book is a London full of werewolves, fairies, vampires, and other beings of chaos. Though the whole bit about chaos is only described in brief and in a somewhat vague manner, I wasn’t bothered by the lack of information. Dragons act as the balance against chaos, though Irene isn’t entirely sure herself how that works. But dragons! Give me ALL the dragon books! We get a glimpse of these great and powerful creatures in The Invisible Library but shhh…spoilers. You’ll have to read it.
I loved Irene. She’s jumped up on my list of favorite fantasy heroines. Not only is she determined and passionate about her work, but she doesn’t let anything get in her way even if it involves a bumpy airship ride across the city or a submerged carriage. Her loyalty to the Library is beyond reproach (though might get her in trouble someday). Irene is definitely flawed with not only her loyalty-unto-death mindset but also she has a thing for private investigators. It’s absolutely adorable, and when she gets to meet one in the flesh she fangirls as much as a woman in the time period can.
Clearly, Irene is a true reader.
Her trainee, Kai, has a lot of question marks floating around him. He has a habit of adapting to whatever situation he’s placed in despite is so-called street background, and while I had my guesses about him early on I was pleasantly surprised during the big reveal. He definitely grew on me and I need to know more about him. The aforementioned detective, Vale, is just as interesting but in a different sort of manner. He’s an ode to Sherlock, specifically reminding me of the movies starring Robert Downey Jr. — unexpected warrior and observational genius. Now I need see some hints of a potential triangle between these two intriguing gentlemen and Irene, but even if that does happen, I don’t think she’d draw it out.
The only aspect of The Invisible Library that could’ve been better is some of the writing. I loved the style but at times the descriptions bogged down the story and moved things more slowly that I would’ve liked (to be fair, I devoured this book in one sitting so clearly is wasn’t a big problem).
So will you like this book? Do you like fantasy? Do you like steampunk tech? Do you want to be a Librarian? Of course you do! And hey, if none of that sold you, there are dragons. I bet that seals the deal. Snag a copy of your own and keep an eye out for the sequel, The Masked City. You can bet I will be.