Series: The Invisible Library #1
Published by Roc on June 14, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Mystery, Adventure, Alternate Universe
Amazon • The Book Depository • Audible
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...
There will never come a time that I’m not immediately interested in a fictional book about libraries and librarians. I mean, duh. Still, I’ve struggled a bit with Rachel Caine’s The Great Library series, and I feared The Invisible Library would be too similar, as they both feature powerful, magical libraries who send their librarians out into dangerous situations to collect rare books. Mileage may greatly vary here, since my GR friends seem to prefer Caine’s series to Cogman’s, but for me The Invisible Library was everything I hoped I’d get from The Great Library, adding strong characterization to an excellent premise.
I apologize, mostly in advance, for the fact that I really can’t review this book without comparing it to The Great Library. Having read them so closely together and the premises being so similar, I can’t help but examine them and see how much more I love the way that Cogman dealt with similar issues. The Invisible Library has stronger characterization, better banter and diversity, a female MC, and much more fantasy fun.
From the start, I loved Irene, our librarian MC. She’s brilliant, sarcastic, and rule-following (most of the time). At first glance, she comes across as a librarian stereotype, all put together and obsessed with order, but she’s got amazing depths if you stick around and get to know her. Irene loves detective stories, and that’s why she loves her job hunting down rare books in various alternate universes so very much. Each mission requires acting skills, quick thinking, deduction, and, often, action.
The Library resides at the center of the myriad alternate universes and aims to collect all unique books within its walls. I love this premise so fucking much, because the different universes have varying natural laws, meaning that some are like steampunk novels, some are fantastical, some technological, and some a mix of those. Cogman delivers every fantasy and science fiction delight in something that feels like a fantasy version of Cabin in the Woods. There’s every possibility, and each mission spins the wheel to a new realm.
On the central mission of The Invisible Library, Irene’s tasked with training a new librarian. Enter Kai, a massively gorgeous, Asian guy. Despite the eye candy, Irene’s annoyed to be saddled with a mentee. They’re sent in search of an edition of Grimm’s in a chaos-ridden world full of the fae, vampires, and werewolves. As you might expect, the mission doesn’t turn out to be simple. Cogman does a great job with the pacing and excitement level of the first book of the series. She keeps things relatively light, establishes the world, and puts pieces in place for the larger series arc. It’s an excellent series opener, and I’m so glad I can immediately dive into book two.
On top of all the fantasy stuff, The Invisible Library also has easter eggs for lovers of mysteries. In the course of the case, Irene and Kai partner up with an in-world detective, Vale, who is a Sherlock type. Despite not being a huge mystery person myself or overly familiar with Sherlock, I thought all of that was quite excellent. There’s just SO much to love in this book for any bibliophile.
Also, bisexual heroine! She hasn’t officially stated her sexuality, but some of her comments have made it obvious. She’s got a lot of tension with the female librarian who trained her, and her backstory includes reference to an unfortunate incident with a woman in a catsuit. She’s also clearly into dudes. Basically, she lays out that she’s into anyone who’s mysterious, dangerous and to whom she should not be attracted. I’ve also decided that Vale and Singh are totally a couple, based on the way that Singh pouted at Kai sitting in his chair. And omg the conversation between Kai and Irene in the hotel made my life. I haven’t figured out what I ship here yet because there’s so much possibility. I basically just want Kai to get whoever he wants.
The Invisible Library completely exceeded my expectations. Though it’s about adult characters, I definitely think YA readers will enjoy this one too! Excellent world building, delightful characters, strong plotting, and a fun mystery arc for book one. On to The Masked City!
“Involvements with glamorous female cat burglars never end up well.”
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: