Today I am reviewing the first half of Genevieve Cogman’s, The Invisible Library. This takes us up to Chapter 13 or page 171. If you would like to read along with me, or even read ahead of me, then you can find a link to the book here on Amazon. As always, that is an affiliate link so I might make some money if you follow it!
So first off, I have been enjoying The Invisible Library. It’s a very different book to the type of thing that I have been reading lately and it’s fun to be back in the fight scene and dramatic cliffhangers at the end of chapters game. In fact, one of the things I was really impressed with, and this is going to sound like a really silly thing to be impressed with, I’m sorry, is that there was a massive cliffhanger on the chapter ending that I had picked for the end of the part. So it happens right at the middle point of the book, which is honestly impressively timed. I wish I was as good at keeping to a narrative structure as that, mostly I have to get told what order things should be in.
Interestingly, given the past books I’ve been reading, this is also a book with alternate realities and fae. And it’s set in an alternate history setting! It’s basically a mix of The Only Harmless Great Thing, Under the Pendulum Sun, and This is How You Lose the Time War, which is fun. But also says something about first my taste, and secondly the fashions in book trends over the last few years. Though to be fair, I deliberately left out the books on my to-read list that featured apocalypses and world endings because I felt like that would be a bit too grim for the current climate.
But still, it is interesting to see that these story seeds are popular across the different books and authors. Especially since The Invisible Library is another book set in a fake Victoriana setting. And has a turquoise cover with calligraphy-like curly bits. OK, yeah, I apparently have a type. OOps.
But back to the book, not just the cover and thematic similarities with the other ones I have been reading.
I really like the main character, Irene, and the second main character, Kai. In particular, I like that Irene is the expert, but that doesn’t stop her being the main character. So many books have someone stuck in the middle of something terrible who are complete novices but somehow manage to bumble along to success. Irene knows what she is doing, has experience and back story to reinforce that, and it is so good to read competence. It might just be a thing that I enjoy, but sometimes the way characters don’t know what to do in books can be really anxiety-inducing, and not in a fun way. Instead, in The Invisible Library, Irene has a plan and while things might go sideways fairly frequently you don’t think it’s because she’s useless.
Which, again, in this world, at this moment is lovely to read. I need some characters with basic competence in my life.
I love the way, as well, that it makes it clear that Irene has her own secrets and a life beyond the pages of the book. Her existence doesn’t start on page one, instead, it feels like this is a story a few books into her adventures.
But, because we do have a character who is new to everything, Kai, we get to be introduced to world-building elements that might have confused us. I also really like the way that Kai has his own things that he can do well, he’s not a flummoxed newbie, even if he is a bit confused on brief occasions. But there are a lot of times where he clearly knows what he is doing and can get things done without having the main character looking over his shoulder all the time. I also think the mysteries that he brings to the book are a really interesting second line of plot, that will likely go on beyond this first book and its primary storyline. I am looking forward to finding out more.
The magic system of the Library was novel, yet intriguing. I found the idea of a language that can be understood by anyone who hears it as their native language, but which can only be wielded by Librarians cool. And I am always a sucker for magic that makes you be very clear and explicit in what you want because it’s fun to think of all the ways people can try to get around it by using loopholes in the language. That’s something that comes up a lot in fae themed magic and I do love it a lot.
But also, the different worlds Irene travels to have their own magical systems and styles. And I think that is really interesting too. It is certainly a great way of using up all those spare setting ideas you have lying around the place. Which, admittedly, might just be a thing I do. What can I say, sometimes I like coming up with settings more than actually writing the story?
So far we have mostly seen three worlds. There is the world that Irene is visiting at the beginning of the book, this has a magical boarding school and antagonistic gargoyles, then there is the world of the Library, where there are books from every possible world, where some are written as memoirs and some as fiction, and all the other varieties possible. Then there is the final one we end up in, which has zeppelins, Fae from Lichtenstein, or at least say they are from Lichtenstein, clockwork and vampires. It’s a very busy world, but that is explained by the fact that there is chaos contamination. Something that honestly gives more questions than answers, but I look forward to finding out more in the next half of the book.
In truth, that’s mostly what this review is all about. I have enjoyed the book, I am looking forward to finishing it. But I think that’s all I can really say at the moment. It’s fun, but it isn’t hitting me as hard as the previous books on this list have. That’s probably a good thing though, aside from Under the Pendulum Sun, this is the longest book I have read in a while and if it was the same intensity as The Only Harmless Great Thing the whole way through I would probably have to give up due to exhaustion.
But I look forward to finding out more about the various worlds and the characters running around in them. In particular, I would love to find out the truth behind a few of the dangling threads Cogman has put before the reader, but that will have to wait.
See you next time!