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Book Review: The Invisible Library

May 31, 2016

The Invisible LibraryThe Invisible Library
By Genevieve Cogman
Roc Trade 
e-galley from NetGalley & paper ARC from publisher

Irene is a librarian for the Invisible Library, an organization that exists outside of the fabric of reality, dipping into alternate dimensions to collect important books. Along with her assistant, Kal, she’s sent to get a key version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, from a reality where steampunk engineering and Fae Magic hold sway. Also, there are vampires. But when Irene and Kal arrive on the scene, the book has already been stolen. Chasing after the book leads them into intrigue between this alternate-London’s factions. There are also crocodiles. Steampunk robot crocodiles. More on those later.

Fun adventure-fantasy, tied to books and libraries, with banter between characters?

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me that I enjoyed this book.

There’s a definite steampunk-Victoriana atmosphere, which I know is going to put it on several friends’ to-read lists. (Hi, Keri.) I don’t think of myself as a steampunk fan in general, but this book, with the library mystery and character detail won me over. The library setting and the plotting of the mystery got me beyond feeling like steampunk was a gimmick. Yes, there were zeppelins and mechanized mind-controlled crocodiles, but I promise, it worked well in context.

I saw Irene and her various adversaries vying for possession of this specific edition of a rare book, and thought about the ways the Invisible Library and its detractors could stand as a metaphor for ideas about information access, archives, preservation, closed stacks and open stacks. But then I got back to reading the adventure, and shushed myself.

I can see the bookish adventure especially appealing to fans of the TNT show The Librarians. (We all have to do something to tide ourselves over til Season 3, yes?) The library and bookishness is integral to the plot, as well as to the way some of the magic and supernatural aspects work. As with watching The Librarians on TV, I only wish my own MLIS coursework and day job included a bit more of the adventure and derring-do.

(Wait a minute, no I don’t… I don’t actually want my day job to be death-defying searches for rare books while being pursued by werewolves and possessed bugs. Especially not the bugs.)

Amusing sidenote: After I downloaded the book on NetGalley and started reading it, I got a note from Alexis Nixon, the publicist working with the book. She offered to send me a hard copy. Of course, I said yes.

Considering the driving force of the plot, having a hard copy in hand is particularly satisfying. Also, the cover’s lovely. I need to take some glamour shots of it to post on Instagram.

This book is the start of a series. The first installment has enough world-building to provide detail with just a little bit of forgivable exposition. More importantly, the way the first book ends ties up enough loose ends not to be jarring.
But I will be eager to read the next book as soon as possible.


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