Invisible Library #1. Author: Genevieve Cogman.
Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…
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.
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.
I maintain that The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson proves that a book can actually live up to and beyond an epic premise. Well, The Invisible Library proves that a book can have a spectacular premise – the premise of that fascinating, thoughtful, epic-and-yet-amusing book you’re always wishing you could find at the library – and still fall flat. (Sadly, this conclusion is not as surprising as the first one was, and yet. It just had so much potential!)
An inter-dimensional library. An epic quest entirely centered around the retrieval of a single book. Fae as the personification of chaos, and world-saving dragons. Wrap them all up together along with zeppelins, mechanical crocodiles, and magic, and what do you get?
A lot of info-dumping and unnecessary dialogue meant only for the reader, that’s what. A slightly stilted, flat writing style doesn’t help anything, and the characters have little personality. Oh, I understand that Irene’s used to all this, what with being a professional spy librarian and all, and Kai has enough secrets to keep anyone reserved – but there’s still so little emotion anywhere. No questioned opinions (Some interesting ones- Irene states that “My honor is the library,” and I want to see that cult-like notion play out a bit more. But although she has a moment of slight doubt, it doesn’t last long) no lies to be challenged, no character growth. I think that’s what bothered me most; they’re almost exactly the same at the end of the story as they are at the beginning. It’s sheerly plot-driven, and the poor plot isn’t strong enough to support that.
Serious plot hole #1: Irene can use Library Magic for most of the book; a magic that’s loosely defined in the beginning, already vague and powerful, but later turns out to be completely nebulous and all-encompassing. She can order almost anything to do anything, and the only limit is being within hearing. She could have fixed 80% of the problems using this reality-controlling power.
Serious plot hole #2: Inter-librarian dynamics make no sense. Irene has a serious rivalry with another librarian, Bradamant, who works another supervisor. A rivalry to the point that Bradamant enters the alt-world illicitly, tries to steal the mission from Irene, and seriously jeopardizes everything. She’s endangered an important retrieval mission that may be critical to saving worlds from the Villain. For pride. And she may originally have been sent in before by her supervisor? Do older librarians work together at all? Do librarians regularly get away with this sort of thing?
I might still be interested in reading the second book to see if it gets any better, given that the Library itself remains pretty neat. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to do so. And that possible interest says more about my need for books with giant libraries than for the tenability of this particular one.
Sexual Content: Going through backlog of junk email, character mentions “comparisons of Victorian pornography across alternate Victorian worlds”. One (adult, unmarried) character suggests to another (adult, unmarried) character that they sleep together; when she politely refuses, he claims to be “marvelous in bed”, and she says she’s “sampled partners from many different cultures” and is still uninterested. Some thoughts of touching, kissing… then the character shakes off the fae seduction magic.
Language: 13 d***, 7 hell, 3 derogatory terms, 1 scatological term
Violence: Hellhound knocks woman down: she orders fire hydrant to explode, and the hound is struck and knocked back by flying debris. Giant mechanical centipede wreaks havoc in the street, knocking carts over and smashing things. Man tries to snatch a woman’s purse – she knocks him down and hits him over the head with a flimsy chair. Characters find complete human skin. Character caught in magic-trap, skin burned off her hand, infected with chaos magic. Alligators attack a large social gathering, injuring (and possibly killing) multiple minor characters, including ripping off at least one leg – beyond a general description of carnage there’s not many details. Shots exchanged between airships, one man killed. One battle between humans and a fae character that involves shooting, magic, and reality warping – one character is cut several times, and the fae character is painfully trapped before being banished.