The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library is the dazzling debut from Genevieve Cogman that came out in 2015 - with the second part of this rollicking series, Masked City having just hit the stores last Dec.

As usual, I am late to this party but I am so glad I am on-board. The book has one of the most interesting premises I've ever read and is soaked in nostalgia reminiscent of a good old fantasy tale done just right. Magic, steampunk, detective-story - all rolled in one filled with danger lurking around every other page leading to non-stop adventures. this one reads like pure unadulterated fun.

So as the name suggests, the book introduces readers to the Library - an institute that collects interesting fiction from different alternate versions of the world and is tasked with preserving the order in such worlds by balancing out 'chaos' ( A sort of unregulated magic that runs riot and destroys worlds). We join Irene, a junior librarian on the way back from a regular mission ( one that involves being chased by Hellhounds and attacked by gargoyles - and we are immediately stoked up because if a mundane mission that introduces us to the protagonist involves such levels of excitement, then the 'special' one she gets sent out for the bulk of the book was going to be scintillating! And hell yes, we are not disappointed!)

So Irene gets sent to an alternate London along with a new apprentice Kai to retrieve the fairy tale, Brothers Grimm Story. So its' still nineteenth century and it is teeming with chaos - metallic monsters chewing up the roads and randomly out to kill people, mobs up in arms against each other, faes and vampires part of the high society but each with their own vested interests and the book, missing - having been filched from a murder scene by a 'cat' burglar. The complications nest down together and forms a vicious pit that drags Irene right in. And on top of that, the 'book' has attracted the attention of the only Librarian to have turned a traitor against the cause of the Library. A legendary figure believed to have lived for centuries and who has no remorse against 'killing' other librarians.

It's a heady concoction of fun and adventure dealt in magically-charged manner. Language that structures reality? Knock me down with a feather! Brilliant. Genevieve keeps things on the boil all the way to a stunning climax, throwing in vividly imagined dangers round the dark corners.

Irene is a wonderful heroine, level-headed, lightning fast mental reflexes and can hold her own against thieves and thugs. So repelling cyborg alligators, almost drowning in the Thames, getting poisoned by curare, getting the skin stripped off her hand and being chased by werewolves and giant robots - all in a day's work for our kick-ass junior librarian. She is the perfect foil for us to understand the workings of the Library and the forces against it - especially bringing in a new apprentice who again gives us reader ample opportunities to learn up more about the mysterious institution. Kai is a mystery and I would have loved to see more of him - but with a lot of other characters vying for the attention, I thought his character suffered a bit. Charming and courteous, I wanted to see if the sparks between him and his senior would ignite. But Genevieve plays her cards very subtly - introducing another possible romantic sub plot with Vale, a detective clearly styled on her favorite character, Holmes. A lovable character bustling with energy and action - and who teams up with Irene and Kai on their mission. A word about Bradamant, the other librarian in the picture - For some reason, I was undecided whether I should be hating her guts and guile or be in awe of her resourcefulness and her cunning. Anyways, I am hoping to run in to her more often though.

There are still mysteries that abound within the hidden corridors of the Library and it's mysterious ways of working -  Genevieve plants enough seeds in our minds to confuse us and have us hanging on for the rest of the adventures! - and the darkness and chaos that threatens multiple layers of alternate worlds all around the Library is still at large. So be sure to see Irene in action again!

Magical and fantastical, The Invisible Library is a book that reads like a runaway freight train with a vividly imagined plot, plucky hero(es) and heroines, a larger-than-life villain, detailed with a nicely wrought out magical system all circling around the Invisible Library that itself has secrets wheeling within secrets in dark hallways seldom explored. Come hither and step into the hallowed hallways for a thrill-ride like never before. 


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