Book 1 in the Invisible Library series
First published in the U.S. in 2016
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
The Short Of It:
This was such a fun, quirky page-turner! It's the first in a new fantasy series, and I'm looking forward to reading book two when it comes out next month. The lighthearted, oddball, action-filled plot reminded a bit me of V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic series.
The Long Of It:
I'm pretty sure I've found my dream job: I want to be a Librarian at the Invisible Library. A typical workday includes hopping to one of many, many alternate versions of the world, possibly assuming a disguise or fake identity, and obtaining (by whatever means necessary) a particular book for inclusion in the Library's collection.
Irene is a junior Librarian just back from a successful mission when she's saddled with a trainee, Kai, and hustled off on an assignment to retrieve a special version of Grimm's Fairy Tales from an alternate London. Easy enough, she thinks, until the mission turns out to be much, much more difficult and dangerous than she anticipated. Not to mention, it seems Kai may be no ordinary trainee. Adventure, magic, close calls, attack alligators, evil rogue Librarians, meetings with Fae and trips to the British Library ensue.
"The Invisible Library" was action-packed, creative and entertaining. The alternate worlds feature a varying blend of science, magic and supernatural creatures, and things like ray guns, automatons, mad scientists, vampires, zeppelins, secret societies and sorcery are all in play in the alternate where this book is set, which was a pretty cool place that I wouldn't mind hopping on over to. I grew fond of the characters too; I liked Irene, and I loved Kai and a Sherlockian detective named Peregrine Vale and I can't wait to re-join their adventures.
I also enjoyed the bookish-ness that oozed through these pages, and I know most readers will appreciate it too. Books are at the core of Irene's life; her upbringing, her work and her leisure time revolve around books. Here's one of many readerly quotes I liked: "The atmosphere of the place soothed her automatically; the rich lantern-lights, the sheer scent of paper and leather, and the fact that everywhere she looked, there were books, books, beautiful books."
My main complaint was that I found the worldbuilding, the time period and the specificities of the Library to be a bit confusing. The alternate London visited by Irene and Kai sounds like a version of Victorian England, but it's never explicitly mentioned, nor is whether the Librarians are traveling in time as well as space. I'm also a bit miffed as to why I keep seeing the Librarians described as spies in other blurbs and reviews. Maybe they do some spying in the second book, but in the first novel they're mostly just clever thieves. I'm hoping all these details will be hashed out further in the next installment, which is coming up fast. Book two, "The Masked City," is set for release in September, the third book, "The Burning Page," is out in December, and book four is in the works, according to Cogman's website.