& Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Publisher: Roc, June 2016

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Publisher: Roc, June 2016

The Book Itself: Rather plain, almost reminds me a of a movie poster. If that movie poster was just the title and a border. The title of this book was intriguing enough to get me to pull it off the shelf, but I don’t know if the cover itself would have gotten me to do the same otherwise.

My Review: 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…

The entire premise of this book is constructed to draw book lovers in. Let’s just look at that title: The Invisible Library. Um…yes please! Now if I said that there is time/alternate dimension travel, an infinite library where rare books are stored away from prying eyes, Librarians trained from birth to locate and bring back priceless books…well, I’d bet that you’re practically salivating.

At least I was. And I warily dove into it, because it seemed a little too good to be true…but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised. The world is pure reader’s wish fulfillment. We open on Irene in a precarious situation, attempting to bring back an important book to the Library. Already the story is action packed and mysterious. When she gets into The Library, you just want to live there…the place is so large, it takes days of travel to get from one section to another. Librarians act as spies, thieves, and secret agents in order to get precious tomes for the collection. We’re missing a bit of origin story here – as I believe there’s probably more reason to collect all these books than “to keep them safe” – but that might be explained a little as the series goes on.

Irene is paired with the new guy, Kai, and they’re sent into a world on the brink of “chaos.” “Chaos” is measured like air pollution in these other dimensions. And when the chaos-ometer (or whatever is used to detect and measure the vaguely defined chaos) reaches a certain point, it is understood that dragons – all-powerful beings in this book, who can look just like humans, but possess incredible ability to change the world around them – will intervene.

Well, they haven’t intervened in this world/dimension yet, and it seems like they should. As Irene and Kai bumble around this new dimension, it is very clear they are way over their heads. I’m not quite sure why two relative novices were assigned this task, but it makes for an action-packed story.

Maybe a bit too action-packed. In every chapter, our heroes are beset by weird stuff. There are clockwork alligators, for crying out loud. Add to the weird things stalking their every move is each character’s crazy backstory, the Language they as Librarians can use to influence the physical world around them, and the central mystery of what the hell is going on here, and it gets to be a little too much action and too little development, both character and plot wise. The mystery unspools like most formulaic ones do – enter the setting, meet a helpful ally, find clue, meet enemy, follow clues to result, etc.

Irene as a character also suffers a bit from being Attractive to Everyone. There’s a bit of a forced love triangle between her, Kai, and the detective they meet while in this dimension. And whenever another character felt attraction to her, it felt rather forced. One evening, in the room they’re sharing together, Kai out of the blue propositions Irene, and I felt so uncomfortable because until that moment, I was not under the impression that they were attracted to one another. I also got the impression that Irene might have had a past relationship or attraction to another female character, but that was so hazy that maybe I am just reading into it.

Overall, it was a light fantasy read that crams a lot of action and a bit of absurdity into its 300-odd pages. I’ll continue onto the next one, but for such a great premise, I wish I had gotten a little bit more depth out of the story.

My Grade: C

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