A Drunken Dream and other stories

DrunkenDreamAndOtherStories-Cov10 stories of the human heart.

Forty years ago, the legendary manga artist Moto Hagio reinvented the shōjo (girl’s comics) genre with an ongoing series of whip-smart, psychologically complex, and tenderly poetic stories. Here now, in English for the very first time, as the debut release in Fantagraphics Books’ ambitious manga line of graphic novels, are ten of the very best of these tales.

The work in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories spans Hagio’s entire career, from 1970’s “Bianca” to 2007’s “The Willow Tree,” and includes the mind-bending, full-color title story; the famously heartbreaking “Iguana Girl”; and the haunting “The Child Who Comes Home” — as well as “Autumn Journey,” “Girl on Porch With Puppy,” the eerie conjoined-twins shocker “Hanshin: Half-God,” “Angel Mimic,” and one of the saddest of all romance stories, “Marié, Ten Years Later.” 

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is supplemented with a feature-length interview with Hagio, where she discusses her art, her career, and her life with the same combination of wit, candor, and warmth that radiates from every panel of her comics.” 

[Text from the backcover; see also the publisher’s website]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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Bianca, p. 16

For an introduction on Moto Hagio (her membership of the Year 24 Group and contribution to the development of the modern shōjo manga as well as a selected bibliography) I refer you to my commentary on The Heart of Thomas (it is in French but you can read an auto-translated English version). 

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is a compilation of ten short stories selected and translated by Rachel (formerly Matt) Thorn. It also includes a very interesting introduction to “The Magnificent Forty-Niners” (Year-24 Group) and a fascinating interview with Moto Hagio (both originally published in The Comics Journal #269 [July, 2005]). 

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Bianca, p. 13

The anthology starts with a short story titled “Bianca” (ビアンカ, 16 p., first published in Shoujo FriendSignature is V” special issue in 1970). Bianca comes to live with Clara’s family for a week because her parents are away for work (actually they are going through a divorce). She is shy but free spirited: she talks to herself in the mirror and dances barefoot in the forest. Clara finds her strange and laugh at her. When Bianca learns what her parents are up to she runs into the forest. Later that night she is found dead. Now an old woman and a painter, Clara has not forgotten her and keep drawing her into her sylvan paintings… stars-3-0

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Girl on Porch, p. 23

“Girl on Porch With Puppy” (ポーチで少女が小犬と / Pōchi de shōjo ga koinu to, 12 p., first published in COM in January 1971) offers a similar story. A little girl doesn’t behave has it is expected of her: she talks to and kisses her little dog, enjoys the beauty of nature and walking in the rain. She’s told she is too old for such child play. In the end, all the disapproving adults are pointing their index finger at her and she disappears! I guess this story refers to the fact that in Japanese society where conformity is the norm, if you diverge one way or another, you are ostracized and you become invisible to them (if they could they would make you disappeared!). stars-3-5

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Autumn journey, p. 46

In “Autumn Journey” (秋の旅 / Aki no tabi, 24 p., first published in Bessatsu Shoujo Comic in October 1971), a boy takes a trip to meet with his favourite author. He is unfortunately out on a horse ride but the boy meet his daughter instead. She discovers that her father is also his and that he abandoned the boy and his mother to start a new family. As he comes back from his ride, the father runs after the boy, but he has already boarded the train in tears, thankful that his father remembers him… stars-3-0

“Marié, Ten Years Later” (十年目の毬絵 / Jūnenme no Marie, 16 p., first published in Big Comic Original in March 1977), tells the story of Shima Taichi who nostalgically remembers his college years with his two best friends, Marié and Tsugawa. They were all aspiring artists. He was in love with Marié, but out of the blue she married Tsugawa who was a better artist and both left. He hasn’t seen them since. Shima always felt he was a loser, a geek, an average artist. Ten years later, Tsugawa calls him to let him know that Marié died and left a letter for him. Marié was missing the time when the three of them were together in perfect harmony. Tsugawa ended up not such a good artist after all and couldn’t produce anything for years making Marié unhappy. Shima decides to organize his first gallery show and invites Tsugawa… stars-3-0

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A Drunken dream, p. 79

In “A Drunken Dream” (酔夢 / Suimu, 20 p., first published in the illustrations collection 金銀砂岸 [kingin suna-gan / lit. “Golden sand coast”] in 1980), Lem Palomino works on a research station on Io and always has the same dream: he is a girl (in fact he is an hermaphrodite) and meets a beautiful stranger, but before they can consummate their love one of them dies. One day, she meets a newcomer on the station, Dr Gadan Safaash, who is the man of the dream! He also has the same dream. It seems the dreams are in fact past life memories. They are both stuck in a space-time gap and constantly relive the same tragedy… stars-3-5

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Hanshin, p. 98

“Hanshin: Half-God” (半神, 16 p., first published in Petit Flower in January 1984) is about two conjoined twin sisters, Yucy and Yudy. Yucy looks like and angel but she’s simpleminded and cannot process well the nutriments, so she’s slowly sucking the life out of Yudy, who is very intelligent but looks ugly because of her bad health. The doctors decides to separate the twins to save Yudy. After the operation, Yucy withers and starts looking ugly like Yudy used to be. After her death, Yudy has recovered and, when she looks in the mirror, she sees only the sister that she hated (or has she become her sister?). But she also loved her. She has an identity crisis and it makes her depressed… stars-3-0

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Angel mimic, p. 145

In “Angel Mimic” (天使の擬態 / Tenshi no gitai, 50 p., first published in Petit Flower in November 1984), Tsugiko “Alice” Arisugawa tries to kill herself. She wanted to become an angel. She is rescued by father Joseph and Shiroh who was walking the dog (Jiroh). At school, Tsugiko and Shiroh meet again as he is the new biology teacher. As they learn to know each other, he tries to cheer her up and figure up what’s wrong with her. At first he thinks that she’s depressed because she was dumped by her boyfriend, but then she confesses having had an abortion. She felt she was not good enough to raise a child by herself. He tells her “it was the child who became an angel. You want wings for the child.” She thinks, until human evolve into winged angels, she can at least pretend to be one… A touching story. stars-3-5

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Iguana girl, p. 174

In “Iguana Girl” (イグアナの娘 / Iguana no Musume, 50 p., first published in Petit Flower in 1991), because she’s “different”, a mother sees her baby girl as an iguana (at first I thought it was an allegory for a handicap baby but it seems that it’s simply because the girl was bigger and tomboyish). Rika will grow up complexed. Even if she is very intelligent and beautiful she will see herself as an iguana. However, she realizes that some other people look like animals too and she meets a nice guy that looks like a bull (he’s big and clumsy). When her mother dies, she sees her on her dead bed as an iguana too and imagines the fantasy of her mother being an iguana princess who fell in love with a human and asked a sorceress to transform her into a human. Maybe her mother felt also “different” and transposed her fear into her child? Rika then comes to term with her relationship with her mother. She’s able to move on in her life, marry and have a family of her own… Moto Hagio has confessed that this story is inspired by her own difficult relationship with her mother. stars-4-0

“The Child Who Comes Home” (帰ってくる子 / Kaette kuru ko, 24 p., first published in チャイルド 異形コレクション7 [Chairudo igyō korekushon 7 / lit. “Child Heteromorphic Collection 7”] in 1998) is a ghost story. After her youngest son dies in a traffic accident, a women pretend he is still there and even “sees” him. When she injures herself and is hospitalized, her older son (who’s in trouble at school for cheating and bullying) runs away to the grand-parents. On his way back, he sees his brother. The mother realizes she had been neglecting her other child (she also learns that she’s pregnant again) and stop pretending… stars-3-0

“The Willow Tree” (柳の木 / Yanagi no ki , 20 p., first published in Flowers in 2007) is another ghost story with the first sixteen pages containing only two panels each without any dialogue! A woman with an umbrella is waiting under a willow tree through several seasons to show the passage of the years. Finally, a man go see her and tells her that he was resentful and felt abandoned when she disappeared from his life suddenly. “You’ve been watching me all along (…) I am all right now, mother…” and he hugs the tree… stars-3-0

This superb anthology offers an excellent introduction to the work of Moto Hagio. With narratives imbued with broken families or the burden of non conformity, and their simple but effective art, they are very good examples of the shōjo and josei manga with great depth and complexity despite the fact that they are short stories — although the best stories are the two longest. It is a very good reading that will entertain you but also touch your heart…

A drunken dream and other stories, by Moto Hagio (translated by Matt Thorn). Fantagraphics Books, September 2010, 288 p., 7.3“ x 10.1“, $29.99 US, ISBN 978-1-60699-377-4. For young adult readership (16+). stars-3-5

For more information you can check the following websites:

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Original stories © 1977, 1985, 2007, 2008 Shogakukan Inc. English edition © 2010 Fantagraphics Books. Interviews © 2010 Matt Thorn.

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Invisible Library #8: The Untold Story

UntoldStory-cov“Time-traveling Librarian spy Irene has faced unimaginable challenges across a multitude of worlds, but to keep her friends safe, Irene will have to do what has never been attempted and cut through the tangled web of power at the heart of the Library.

Irene is trying to learn the truth about Alberich — and the possibility that he’s her father. But when the Library orders her to kill him, and then Alberich himself offers to sign a truce, she has to discover why he originally betrayed the Library.

With her allies endangered and her strongest loyalties under threat, she’ll have to trace his past across multiple worlds and into the depths of mythology and folklore, to find the truth at the heart of the Library, and why the Library was first created.”

 [Text from the publisher’s website and the backcover]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

This series by British author Genevieve Cogman goes beyond any traditional genre as it mixes them all: fantasy, science-fiction, mystery, horror or even cyber- and steampunk! It offers a fascinating universe where a secret library hidden in-between worlds has doors opening to an infinite variety of parallel dimensions. Its librarians are “stealing” unique books and manuscripts from each of those worlds in order to create a link with them and preserve the balance between order and chaos. The universe is engulfed in an eternal war of influence between the Fae (the agents of chaos) and the dragons (the agents of order). Humans inhabiting those worlds are only pawns in their hands. The protagonists of the story are junior Librarian Irene and her companions: Dragon prince Kai, victorian investigator Vale (a doppelgänger of Sherlock Holmes) and Fae apprentice Catherine… I have already commented on books one to four and books five to seven.

Irene is determined to put an end to Alberich’s threat once and for all (whether he is her father or not). However, in order to do so she has to investigate why he wanted to destroy the library. All the clues and stories that she discovers brings her to the mythology behind the creation of the Library and she discovers a foe far worse in the heart of the Library itself! 

This series was probably originally intended for a Young Adults audience, so it is not surprising that it is such an easy reading. It is well written, interesting and quite captivating. With its travelling between worlds, it offers action in different time periods therefore it is never boring and allow to switch effortlessly between fantasy and science-fiction. It really provides an entertaining and enjoyable reading experience. So I strongly recommend it to everyone who likes adventures and books ! 

Unfortunately this book is the end of the Library universe for now. The author said that it is not the end of the series (more like the end of a season) and that she intended to eventually come back to it. For now she would like to dedicate herself to a new project “in a completely different area (involving vampires and the Scarlet Pimpernel and a hapless maidservant who’d rather be doing embroidery)“: Scarlet to be published by Penguin Random House in May 2023.

The Invisible Library 8: The Untold Story, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ACE (Berkley, imprint of Penguin Random House), December 2021. 384 pages, 8.25 x 5.5 in., $US 16.00 / $22.00 Can, ISBN 978-1-9848-0480-8, For YA readers (14+). stars-4-0

For more information you can check the following websites:

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© Genevieve Cogman, 2021.

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Le clan des Otori #1

ClanDesOtori-1-covGuerre, amour, spiritualité et art incontesté du récit: une fresque puissante au cœur d’un Japon médiéval fantastique sublime. 

Le Silence du Rossignol vous entraîne dans une quête épique, au cœur d’un Japon féodal où se côtoient poésie délicate et terrible violence. Vengeance, traîtrise, honneur et loyauté, beauté, amour fou… Derrière les visages impassibles et les codes immuables se cachent des cœurs passionnés et des sentiments farouches.

L’adaptation en bande dessinée du roman de Lian Hearn.”

[Texte du site de l’éditeur et de la couverture arrière]

(Attention, lire l’avertissement de possible divulgacheurs)

Je n’ai malheureusement pas encore lu le roman original de Lian Hearn (Tales of the Otoriqui se décline en cinq volumes: Across the Nightingale Floor (2002), Grass for His Pillow (2003), Brilliance of the Moon (2004), The Harsh Cry of the Heron (2006), Heaven’s Net is Wide (2007), plus les prequels Shikanoko (4 vol., 2017) et Children of the Otori (2 vol., 2020)). C’est cependant sur ma liste de lecture (quoi que lire l’adaptation BD pourrait représenter la voie paresseuse…). J’ai toujours cru qu’il s’agissait d’un roman historique mais c’est en fait un récit de fantasy historique qui se déroule dans un Japon féodal imaginaire.

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T. 1, Page 15

Le Japon de la seconde moitié du XVIe siècle est en proie d’une guerre civile qui oppose trois clans: les Tohan à l’Est (dirigé par Iida Sadamu), les Seishuu à l’Ouest (dirigé par Dame Maruyama) et les Otori au centre. Ces derniers ne possèdent plus que le Nord car, après la défaite de la bataille de Yaegahara, le Sud a été cédé aux Noguchi, vassaux des Tohan. On retrouve également les “Invisibles” (un groupe de pacifistes [des chrétiens] qui se cache dans les montagnes et est persécuté par les Tohan) et la “Tribu” (une caste de ninja aux pouvoirs surnaturels). Lorsque son village est incendié par le seigneur Tohan, Tomasu est recueilli par Otori Shigeru qui l’adopte et le renomme Takeo. Peu à peu celui-ci se découvre des “talents” spéciaux qui le révèle comme une membre de la Tribu. Shirakawa Kaede est une otage des Noguchi que Iida Sadamu désire marier à Shigeru pour établir une alliance entre les Otori et les Tohan. En fait, ce mariage n’est qu’un prétexte où se croiserons des complots d’assassination. Lorsque Takeo et Kaede se rencontrent, ils tombent amoureux…

C’est un récit complexe où l’on voit se développer les destins de Takeo et Kaede au travers diverses machinations politiques. C’est bien écrit et captivant. Toutefois, le dessin appartient à cette tendance récente qui offre un style brouillon et angulaire (comme Johann Sfar) que je déteste. Mais, bon, c’est un genre et on s’y habitue à la longue. L’adaptation m’apparait excellente et dans l’ensemble l’ouvrage nous offre une bonne et agréable lecture. C’est une intéressante façon de découvrir l’univers créé par Lian Hearn. Un deuxième tome est paru en octobre 2021.

Le clan des Otori #1: Le silence du rossignol, par Stéphane Melchior (texte, d’après l’oeuvre de Lian Hearn) et Benjamin Bachelier (dessin). Paris: Gallimard BD, mars 2021. 96 pages, 23.7 x 31,7 cm, 17.80 € / $C 22.99, ISBN 978-2-07-512334-1. Pour lectorat adolescent (12+). stars-3-0

Vous trouverez plus d’information sur les sites suivants:

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© Liam Hearn, 2002. © Gallimard 2021 pour la présente édition.

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The Hound and Other Stories

TheHoundTanabe-cov“A pair of decadent young men pursue the abhorrent thrill of grave robbing . . . A German submarines crew is driven mad by the call of an underwater temple . . . An explorer in the Arabian Desert discovers a hideous city older than mankind. This moody and evocative manga gets back to the dark foundations of the Cthulhu mythos, adapting three of H. P. Lovecrafts original stories that first shaped the outlines of cosmic horror!”

[Text from the publisher’s website and from the backcover]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and other stories (魔犬 ラヴクラフト傑作集 / Maken Lovecraft Kessakushuu / lit. “Demon Dog Lovecraft Masterpiece Collection”) is a Seinen manga by Gou Tanabe adapting horror stories by H.P. Lovecraft. It was first serialized in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam and Kadokawa’s online Comic Walker magazines before being compiled into a volume by Kadokawa in August 2014. This is the first of Tanabe’s famous adaptations of Lovecraft stories to be translated in English (Dark Horse also published At the mountain of madness in 2019) and, strangely, one that has not yet been translated in French in the Ki-oon prestigious collection which already includes six titles (which I have already commented on this blog).

It includes three stories:

TheHound-Temple-p009In “The Temple”, the lone survivor of a stranded German U-Boat is writing about their discovery of an hellenic-style temple beneath the sea which is calling to them… It was written by Lovecraft in 1920 and published in Weird Tales #24 in September 1925. Tanabe published his adaptation (「神殿」/ Shinden / “Temple”; 64 pages) in the March and April 2009 issues of Comic Beam. As usual, Tanabe adaptation is quite faithful — beside the fact that he moved the timeline from WW1 to WW2.

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Page 104

In “The Hound”, two young bored gentlemen who are seeking more and more gruesome esoteric experiences (like reading John Dee’s translation of The Necronomicon!) embark on a grave robing expedition that will make them the target of an infernal beast ! It was written by Lovecraft in September 1922 and published in the February 1924 issue of Weird Tales it is the first time he mentions the forbidden book written by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. Tanabe published his adaptation (「魔犬」/ Maken / “Demon Dog”; 60 pages) in the July 2014 online issue of Comic Walker.

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Page 143

In “The Nameless City”, an explorer discovers an ancient mythic city in the Arabian desert. He enters a cave that brings him down to coffins filled by palaeogean reptilian corpses and frescoes telling of a vanished civilization. Then there are doors opened on a bright light: he finds himself outside, elsewhere, where there are living creatures! Luckily, the doors close… It was written by Lovecraft in January 1921 and published in the November 1921 issue of The Wolverine — it is the first time he mentions the Cthulhu Mythos. Tanabe published his adaptation (「名もなき都」/ Namo naki miyako / “Nameless City”; 32 pages) in the August 2014 online issue of Comic Walker.

Tanabe superbly adapts Lovecraft’s stories with a fluid storytelling and a very dark, detailed and imaginative artwork. This manga offers a good and pleasant reading that constitutes an interesting introduction to the world of H.P. Lovecraft. Highly recommanded.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound and other stories, by Gou Tanabe. Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics, July 2017. 184 pages, 5 x 7.125 in., $US 14.99 / $C 17.50, ISBN 978-1-50670-312-1. For a teenage readership (14+). stars-3-5

For more information you can check the following websites:

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© 2014 Gou TANABE. All rights reserved. English-language edition & all other material © 2017 Dark Horse Comics.

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The Invisible Library series v. 5-7

The Mortal Word

InvisibleLibrary-5-MortalWord-covIn the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos… and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Germany, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, and that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris to start their investigation.

Once they arrive, they find evidence suggesting that the murder victim might have uncovered proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are being held as hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder–but was it a dragon, a Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?” [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library 5: The Mortal Word, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), November 2018. 448 pages, 8.25 x 5.5 in., $US 17.00, ISBN 9780399587443, For YA readers (14+). stars-3-0

The Secret Chapter

InvisibleLibrary-6-SecretChapter-covTime-travelling, dimension-jumping, Librarian-spy Irene and dragon-prince Kai will have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist—or risk the wrath of a dangerous villain with a secret island lair.

A Librarian’s work is never done, and Irene is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. Her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information-broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo.

Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. But to get their reward, they will have to form a team, including a dragon techie, a Fae thief, a gambler, a driver, and the muscle. Their goal? The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, in an early twenty-first-century world, where their toughest challenge might be each other.” [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library 6: The Secret Chapter, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), January 2020. 352 pages, 8.25 x 5.5 in., $US 16.00, ISBN 9781984804761, For YA readers (14+). stars-4-0

The Dark Archive

InvisibleLibrary-7-DarkArchive-covA professional spy for a mysterious Library which harvests fiction from different realities, Irene faces a series of assassination attempts that threaten to destroy her and everything she has worked for.

Irene is teaching her new assistant the fundamentals of a Librarian’s job, and finding that training a young Fae is more difficult than she expected. But when they’re the targets of kidnapping and assassination attempts, she decides that learning by doing is the only option they have left … 

In order to protect themselves, Irene and her friends must do what they do best: search for information to defeat the overwhelming threat they face and identify their unseen enemy. To do that, Irene will have to delve deeper into her own history than she ever has before, face an ancient foe, and uncover secrets that will change her life and the course of the Library forever.”  [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library 7: The Dark Archive, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), December 2020. 352 pages, 8.25 x 5.5 in., $US 16.00, ISBN 9781984804785, For YA readers (14+). stars-3-5

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

This is a fantasy series by British author Genevieve Cogman about a secret library hidden in-between worlds with doors opening to an infinite variety of parallel dimensions. Its librarians are “stealing” rares books and manuscripts from each of those worlds in order to create a link with them and preserve the balance between order and chaos. The universe is engulfed in an eternal war of influence between the Fae (the agents of chaos) and the dragons (the agents of order). Humans inhabiting those worlds are only pawns in their hands. Such a setting allows for a story that goes beyond the traditional genres of literature, as it both in turn fantasy, science-fiction, mystery or even cyberpunk ! I have commented on the first four volumes last summer.

With a long series like this one you would expect it to become repetitive or even stale after a while, but it is not the case. The author always find ways to bring new captivating intrigues and adventures, whether it is by having the cast of characters protecting a peace conference in “la Belle Époque” Paris against an entire new enemy in book five, or having them to steal a painting in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum in book six or having to fight not one but three old enemies underneath Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Basílica all the while having to train a new apprentice in book seven, the stories always feel fresh. With each episode the character are growing and we learn more about their backgrounds (what are the fae? Who are the dragons?), particularly about the mysterious childhood origin of the main character, librarian Irene Winters.

It is easy to read, always captivating and quite well written. I strongly recommend it to everyone who likes adventures and books ! I have also discovered that the 8th book of the series, “The Untold Story”, is coming out on December 28th, 2021 !!! I can’t wait to see where the story is going after the big revelations of the last two books…

For more information you can check the following websites:

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© Genevieve Cogman, 2018-2020.

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The Invisible Library series vol. 1-4

The Invisible Library

InvisibleLibrary-covOne 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…” [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), June 2016. 344 pages, 8.25 x 5.375 in., $US 17.00, ISBN 9781101988640, For YA readers (12+).stars-3-5

The Masked City

InvisibleLibrary-MaskedCity-covThe written word is mightier than the sword—most of the time… 

Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.

Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.

But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear….” [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library 2: The Masked City, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), September 2016. 374 pages, 8.25 x 5.375 in., $US 17.00, ISBN 9781101988664, For YA readers (12+). stars-3-0

The Burning Page

InvisibleLibrary-BurningPage-covNever judge a book by its cover…

Due to her involvement in an unfortunate set of mishaps between the dragons and the Fae, Librarian spy Irene is stuck on probation, doing what should be simple fetch-and-retrieve projects for the mysterious Library. But trouble has a tendency to find both Irene and her apprentice, Kai—a dragon prince—and, before they know it, they are entangled in more danger than they can handle…

 Irene’s longtime nemesis, Alberich, has once again been making waves across multiple worlds, and, this time, his goals are much larger than obtaining a single book or wreaking vengeance upon a single Librarian. He aims to destroy the entire Library—and make sure Irene goes down with it.

 With so much at stake, Irene will need every tool at her disposal to stay alive. But even as she draws her allies close around her, the greatest danger might be lurking from somewhere close—someone she never expected to betray her…  [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library 3: The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), January 2017. 358 pages, 8.25 x 5.375 in., $US 17.00, ISBN 9781101988688, For YA readers (12+). stars-3-0

The Lost Plot

InvisibleLibrary-LostPlot-covAfter being commissioned to find a rare book, Librarian Irene and her assistant, Kai, head to Prohibition-era New York and are thrust into the middle of a political fight with dragons, mobsters, and Fae in this novel in the Invisible Library series.

In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…” [Text from the publisher’s website ; see also the backcover]

The Invisible Library 4: The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman. New York: ROC (New American Library, imprint of Penguin Random House), January 2018. 370 pages, 8.25 x 5.375 in., $US 17.00, ISBN 9780399587429, For YA readers (12+). stars-4-0

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

This is a fantasy series by British author Genevieve Cogman. The idea of librarians going on Indiana Jones-style missions in parallel worlds to find rare manuscripts and preserve the balance between order and chaos might not seems particularly original (there are plenty of stories which have librarians as protagonists), but what I really like about it is that it makes it possible to create hybrid worlds that mix the genres — in this case magical, supernatural and steampunk! I find it very entertaining and enjoyable to read … There is nothing better than getting lost in a world of fictitious adventures to forget our own problems and relax (and nothing better to forget a library than to read a story of an… invisible library!)

I particularly enjoyed this story because I am myself working in a library and I know a thing or two about the struggle to maintain the equilibrium between order and chaos. And, I am sorry to say, right now in my library, chaos is definitely winning. I also have a strong opinion about the role of libraries in our society. An ideal library would be a temple to knowledge and culture. A place that not only preserves it (a library) but also disseminates it with exhibition and conference rooms as well as places to give workshops of all kinds. Exactly like what Hadrianus intended when he created the Athenaeum in Rome. It is a serious place. Unfortunately, today they tend more to become daycare and playgrounds…

However, I didn’t realize that was such a long series. So far I’ve read half of it (four volumes and there is an eighth volume announced for the end of 2021) and I am not disappointed. It is well written, captivating (you can’t stop reading because you are wondering what will happen next) and, even if, like I said, it is not particularly original, it is an enjoyable distraction from reality.  

The first volume introduces us to the world of the Library and to Irene Winters, a junior librarian with a tendency to get in trouble. We also meet Kai Strongrock, her apprentice, who seems to have peculiar qualities. In the center of everything lies the mysterious Library which is linked to an infinity of alternate earths (each offering a different timeline) from which the Library collects rare books in order to maintain the link to their world of origin and keep the balance between chaos and order. The agents of Chaos are the Fae, influencers who like intrigues and narratives where they are the heroes. The agents of Order are the dragons, who are secretive and can control natural spirits. Both hate each others. The Library is neutral. In her latest assignment, Irene is sent to the Victorian London of world B-395 in order to find an original Grimm manuscript with an extra story. She must compete with a powerful fae, Lord Silver, and Alberich, an evil librarian who was expelled! Fortunately, she finds an ally in Peregrine Vale, a Sherlock Holmes doppelgänger. 

In the second volume, Kai is kidnapped by Lord Guantes, a powerful fae, and brought to an alternate Venice in an highly chaotic world! Against orders, and with the help of Lord Silver, Irene has to manage to reach this world, navigate the complex politics of the fae, find and rescue Kai and return alive! Quite a challenge!

The third book could be called Alberich strikes back. He manages to find Irene and threaten to — nothing less but — destroy the Library. And Irene has to save the world all over again on her own.

In the fourth volume, Irene gets herself caught, this time, in the politics of dragons. Two dragons compete for a high office and in order to win they have to find a rare book. They try to get help from a librarian and, by doing so, threaten the fragile neutrality of the Library. Of course, Irene is sent to a world with a 20s New York in order to save the day. It is the story with the most complex plot so far and my favourite.

The series is classified as fantasy but when you have such a mix of genres it is difficult to keep labels. You do find a lot of magic in it, with vampires and werewolves and dragons, but — considering the steampunk aspects, the space-time nature of the Library and the rationalisation of magic through the Language of the Library — I think it should be seen more as science-fiction. However, whatever label we want to give it, it remains an interesting story that provide a very entertaining and enjoyable experience. It was probably meant to be an Harry Potter look-alike and therefore it targets more or less the Young Adults audience, so it is quite an easy reading. Overall it is a very good book that you will certainly enjoy if you like that type of fantasy/scifi stories.

For more information you can check the following websites:

[ AmazonGoodreadsGoogleNelliganWikipediaWorldCat ]

© Genevieve Cogman, 2016-17.

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