The Invisible Library
“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…” [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+).
The Masked City
“The 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+).
The Burning Page
“Never 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+).
The Lost Plot
“After 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+).
>> 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:
[ Amazon • Goodreads • Google • Nelligan • Wikipedia • WorldCat ]
© Genevieve Cogman, 2016-17.