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Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Steampunk
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: ACE
Release date: June 14, 2016

Series:  The Invisible Library #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

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...


Okay, you all know I'm a librarian; obviously I have been intrigued about this book ever since I heard about it.

Having finished with it, I am of two minds which can't quite mesh together, like magnets of the same polarity that push on one another the harder you try to force them. I loved the idea of a library with sentient powers and librarians with, for lack of a better word, magical authority who go off on adventures. Granted, instead of obtaining artifacts, they obtain rare books from an infinite number of alternate worlds, but that's probably where the similarities to the TNT show The Librarians begins and ends.

Instead, I found the beginning of this book and its worldbuilding explanations to be intricate and almost painful to wrap my head around. And while I naturally love organization of information and research, the revealing of the Library and its world/rules was not logical and presented in a forthright manner, leaving me both confused and irritated. My brain wanted library facts to be logical, just as real librarianship is (mostly). Since we only get a few ideas at a time revealed from the protagonist, I was chomping at the bit to see the full picture. Therefore, I did not have much appreciation for Irene and her way of telling the story.

This reads as a fantastical mystery series, which I supposed I missed from the get-go, having expected  more sci-fi with bits of fantasy. It takes place in a steampunk setting with a meld of fae and other traditional urban fantasy elements like vampires and werewolves (at least in this particular alternate). The mystery itself is very unpredictable because you just don't have many clues about the world itself or its inhabitants and their capabilities.

Another frustrating parts of the novel were the characters and character development. They mainly exist in the present but without much detail, Kai being the real exception (since he is part of the mystery). In other words, their pasts, physical descriptions, and motivations are largely unknown and, I think, make the reader connect less with them. Kai's revelation was not surprising, but what this entails? I still have no clue after finishing this first book. Irene also has a nemesis in Bradamant, whom we meet at the beginning, but their history is still very vague. And though I disliked Bradamant, I found her loyalty and morality to be very questionable though she works for the Library and we're just supposed to trust her? Bradamant seems like she'd be happy throwing whomever under the nearest bus, and why would even the Library supervisors approve of a person like that who doesn't inspire cooperativeness with her coworkers? It astounds me. Speaking of librarians, I did have a couple library specific quotes to share that were my favorite and humorous to the profession. (Disclaimer: naturally, I will allow that these are not entirely accurate--for instance, I spend way more time with people than I do with books but I suppose I haven't lived a full lifetime yet.)

Favorite Librarian Quotes:

"'We are the Library,' Coppelia pointed out. 'What we don't know, we research.'"


"Irene felt chilled. Some of the older Librarians had . . . unsavory reputations. A lifetime among books didn't cultivate depravity or debauchery as much as a love of mind games and politics. And those games could turn dark."

"[Dragons] were supposed to be hoarders after all. Not so different from Librarians."


I'll be reading the second installment, The Masked City, soon, so we'll see whether this picks up in detail and logicality.


Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

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