Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. And soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
The Invisible Library is the first in a series by Genevieve Cogman that centres around a society of Librarians who travel to alternate worlds in order to obtain rare and valuable copies of works of fiction. Irene has been sent on a missing to an alternate London that is chaos-ridden: filled with fae, vampires, werewolves and more. Her job – to acquire a rare copy of the Grimm tales that features stories entirely different to any other London. With the help of her assistant Kai, they become involved in far more than a simple task to find a book, making new friends and enemies that will never forget her involvement.
I have a strong interest in any work of fiction that centres around books, and The Invisible Library fits perfectly into that category. As I was progressing through the book and more about the Library and the worlds in which Irene travels to were unveiled, I found myself making similarities to Mark Latham’s The Apollonian Case Files. As with ACF, The Invisible Library provides alternate worlds that possess supernatural beings or scientific/technological advancements not available in a normal world. I also felt the similarities more strongly due to the alternate that Irene and Kai were sent to which required them to wear more Victorian garb and adjust their position and status accordingly based on how men and women are perceived within that world.
There was never a dull moment in The Invisible Library, with Cogman providing slower scenes that dished out important information about the main and side-characters. Something is always going on even in the more mundane scenes that allowed for the pacing to stay consistent throughout and for me to never lose interest in the story and where it was heading. Cogman provides a lot of distractions within the novel such as her supernatural creatures, or the variety of advancements that have taken place within this alternate London such as zeppelins and robotic creatures. At times, the more faster paced scenes with the action did seem a bit out of place and confusing however, as the novel progressed all the questions regarding those moments are answered and you begin to realise that strange is normal in this world.
I adored the characters of Irene and Kai and really enjoyed how their friendship progressed. Each character holds back information from the other in different ways adding a bit of mystery. As the novel progresses, Irene’s character begins to show her devotion to the Library in her need to complete the task at almost any cost. Though I would not call her ruthless or hard-hearted per se, Irene is definitely a character that will use what she can, when she can. It is this way of working that defines her relationship with Vale who questions why she is really after the book and feels almost confused and shocked whenever Irene does something new. Kai appears as if he is a ruffian and someone who is only along for the ride because he has been told to, but very quickly shrugs off that demeanour to appear cultured and gentlemanly. Kai holds the most secrets out of the two and it is one you begin to understand through Irene’s questioning thoughts. The way that he develops towards Irene made me adore his character all the more as he grows protective towards her as things get worse.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its perfectly balanced pacing, array of fantastical elements and its plot-line. I felt like Cogman provided a story that didn’t leave any confusion as to what had happened and, when you were confused, it was answered by the end of the novel. I do still possess some question regarding certain characters and information that was provided, but I believe that this will be answered as the series progresses. The characters developed really well as they faced friends and foes and came to terms with their position and what they wanted out of the mission.