- Publisher: Tor; Main Market Ed. edition (January 15, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1447256239
- ISBN-13: 978-1447256236
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 387 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,353,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library series) Paperback – January 15, 2015
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So about that library and its group of thieves. Though to be honest, they only steal sometimes, so “agents” is a more accurate term, though they call themselves, no surprise here, Librarians. Irene is a full librarian, albeit on the junior level, and her missions involve entering alternate worlds (the library touches upon nearly all of them apparently) in order to retrieve books unique to those worlds so they may be stored in the Library. In this case, she’s tasked to find a particular version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales in an alternate steampunk-y London. Her first plot complication comes via her just-assigned apprentice Kai (nobody ever lies a tag-along newbie), the second via a rivalry with a higher level Librarian, and the third arrives when she finds out that her alternate London is “chaos-infected,” meaning home to the Fae, those aforementioned vampires and werewolves and other such ilk of varying power. The chaos-affiliated Fae are balanced in the universe by the order-affiliated dragons.
As you can tell from my intro, the complications keep coming, but suffice to say Irene’s mission doesn’t go as smoothly as expected, as the book quest gets a murder investigation tacked on (how she meets this London’s version of Sherlock Holmes), a potential romance with Kai, as well as a battle against a legendary evil rogue Librarian. And more. It’s possible that all these elements could have played nicely together and meshed into a fantastically rich story. Admittedly, it’s even possible they’ll do just that for some readers. But for me, it was all just a bit too much — too scattered, frenetic, and arbitrary, as well as too surface-level thanks to having so many elements divided over a finite number of pages.
My other issues were, as noted above, matters of execution. One problem is the Librarian’s magical power of Language, which basically allows Irene to tell targets to “do things” — doors to unlock for instance. There are supposed to be limits, but to be honest, the rules such as they are seemed inconsistent at times, arguable at others, and always flexible depending on the needs of plot (working on not depending on how much suspense was needed), making the ability bordering a bit too closely on a deus ex machine.
Those rules were emblematic of another problem I had, which was the frequently clumsy (and just plain frequent) exposition that runs throughout the novel. I lost track of how many times the narrative came to a screeching halt while someone (almost always Irene) stopped to explain a bit of the worldbuilding, or to sort of retcon an explanation of why she shouldn’t do A or B in a prior situation (or why she could in this situation).
And in quick fashion: characters sometimes seemed overwrought or demonstrative relative to the merits of the moment, the romance elements often struck me as implausible and a bit trite in their description, characterization didn’t always seem consistent, some plot points seemed contrived, and actions didn’t always make sense to me (not that I didn’t understand what was happening, but why the characters wouldn’t do something that seemed a lot more reasonable). I could give specific examples of all these, but don’t want to belabor the points.
Given all these issues with plotting and execution of craft elements, I could have been carried along by rich characterization or great prose. But the characters never really caught me and never subsequently grew on me. Kai seems more a repository of plot complications and Vale (the detective) a pretty two-dimensional Holmes, and where both are seemingly meant to have deeper characterization, those elements felt overplayed in their “mysterious motivation” and their overwrought emotion. The rogue Librarian brings up some nicely complex points (though ones that don’t seem particularly original) about the Library, but feels more stock Villain than a character who is a villain. Irene, meanwhile, is engaging enough, but never really compelling as a character.
This is a much longer review than most of my “didn’t like” sort, and I think it’s because I was expecting/hoping for so much more. Plus, I may be pre-emptively hitting the defense button a bit, because I wouldn’t be surprised if this book gets a lot of love (after all, readers tend to love books about books/reading). But honestly, I had a hard time pushing forward in this and considered stopping several times as I grew increasingly frustrated with the level of execution/craft. With such a great premise though, it’s possible Cogman’s craft will rise to meet the challenge of that premise in book two. I think, however, that I’ll let someone else, someone I trust a lot, make that call before I consider venturing back into the series.
The Library is a place out of time where all of the books from various worlds are collected in order to maintain the balance between Chaos and Order. The premise for the Library itself sounds absolutely amazing and I would happily sign up to work for them in a hearbeat. Its agents are essentially trained spies who collect the requested books from various worlds, which can sometimes be highly complex and dangerous.
We meet Irene when she has been assigned a more dangerous assignment and a new assistant. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there are dragons, a Sherlock Holmes-esque character, Fae, adventures, and multiple enemies. The story kept me highly entertained and the ending was extremely satisfying. The dialogue is clever and the relationships between characters are interesting (and highly entertaining). There is quite a lot of information given to the reader in this first book so it was slightly overwhelming at the beginning. However, it didn’t take me that long to have a general idea of how everything was related in this world and how the various types of magic worked.
This book is quirky, magical, and, most of all, highly entertaining. The book hints at mysteries to come and I cannot wait to get lost in Irene and Kai’s world once again.
Ms. Cogman has that rare ability to transport the reader to the place and time of her choosing. In this case it is a library that resides between dimensions. The librarians who staff this particular library are there for life and their mission is to collect and preserve rare books from all dimensions. The main character Irene is a junior librarian that has been tasked with finding a book of Grimm fairy tales in an alternate London. Assigned to her is Kai, a librarian in training, who is somewhat of a mystery. In this alternate London magic and the forces of chaos abound. Worlds with chaos are extremely dangerous, leaving Irene to wonder why Kai would be assigned to her for this dangerous mission.
When they arrive in the alternate world, they discover the book they are sent to retrieve has been stolen from the vampire that recently acquired it. Now they must unravel the mystery of its disappearance. Along the way, they meet Vale, a detective reminiscent of Sherlock Homes, minus the Watson, who assists them. They also meet some not so helpful and downright dangerous people. Including another librarian that is trying to be the first to the book in order to scoop Irene.
A great adventure. The plot moved along quickly and had lots of surprises which kept our heroin on her toes. I also enjoyed how Irene’s mind worked and how she kept questioning things in her quest to find the missing book. It gave validity to the story.
The only thing I wanted, that I did not get, is a little more information about The Library itself and some of the characters. There are several bites of information that are hinted at but not fully revealed. It left me craving more. This has set the stage for further development in the series of both the characters and The Library. In addition, the alternate dimensions concept is teeming with infinite possibilities for future stories. My head is spinning just thinking about all the possible missions for the field librarians. In short, I look forward to discovering more about Irene and Kai and reading about their exciting adventures for the The Library.