Published on September 6, 2016 by Roc
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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The written word is mightier than the sword—most of the time...
Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.
Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.
But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear...
We’re back at the Library. Well, more back with Irene and Kai in the alternate London they found themselves in during The Invisible Library. Irene is the Librarian stationed in this world and has settled in to her new position quite well. Where the first book revolved around a book, The Masked City is all about a certain dragon.
(I don’t usually do spoiler alerts with sequels since it’s assumed you’ve read the first book BUT just in case for this one, I’d stop now if I were you.)
Kai has been kidnapped and Irene is off to a place far from her safe Library, far indeed through worlds upon worlds deteriorating into chaos. Where childhood stories — and nightmares — come to life and everyone has a part to play before the act is done. For a book involving a great Library and a Librarian, you’d think there’d be more books involved.
The story itself held my attention from start to finish. To be fair, I had just come off the high of finishing the first book which also excelled in its story and writing. Cogman held nothing back and instead of sending Irene after another book (as I’d expected prior to reading the synopsis for this book), we get more of Kai’s background which is everything I ever wanted. Especially because Kai’s dragon heritage means meeting some of the big bads of the more “orderly” alternates. Just give me all the dragons please and thank you.
So Cogman’s already winning brownie points for the dragons but then there’s the alternate drenched in chaos. Instead of giving the world a strictly dark, “evil,” touch, it’s not all bad (yet also not all good). The further into chaos you go, the more story-telling plays a larger role. The fairies Irene meets aren’t treated as evil people, but simply human, for lack of a better descriptor. They make both good and bad choices and Irene even becomes friendly with a few despite being raised to recognize fairies as signs of chaos. Signs of something bad or wrong with the world.
The Masked City really focuses a lot around this idea of good and evil, and the very blurred line between. With Irene acting as the neutral party, you get to see her view of chaos at the beginning (as an evil entity) shift somewhere toward the middle as she remained in the chaotic alternate. Often I see chaos treated as solely bad and order solely good but that’s not the case in this book which I found both more realistic and refreshing.
And as always, Irene was awesome. She isn’t a character afraid of change and jumps in when faced with a vastly dangerous situation because her friend is in danger. The thing with her is that I don’t often have questions about her past except her parents which come up here and there. I’m otherwise pretty satisfied with her character. Kai had a lot more question marks around him in The Invisible Library but several were addressed here. I’m still not sure about him and Irene because there’s been hintings throughout of something between them but what seems to be up in the air. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I totally ship these two.
One thing I was wondering about though… how the hell did Vale do it?
The specifics of that question will have to remain vague until you read The Masked City but it’s never really explained very well and I have to wonder if that was intentional, and what is the detective’s background. I get a feeling that he’s not all that he seems.
We’re taking a step away from the books in The Masked City but you definitely won’t want to leave this one waiting. I’m already starving for the third book and you will be too so read at your own risk.