I have never before in my life wanted to write in someone else’s created world more than I do now that I have read Genevieve Cogman’s ‘The Invisible Library’.
And, as a writer, that is essentially the highest praise I can think of giving a piece of fiction.
When I first read the blurb for The Invisible Library, I was hooked. And while technically the author’s debut novel, her Goodreads profile confirms that she has been published before as a freelance roleplaying game writer - which shows, because The Invisible Library is not the work of an amateur - nor even a lucky beginner.
The Invisible Library is everything I could ever want out of a book - almost eerily so, given that I’ve never met Genevieve Cogman. Set in a world of alternate Earths, a library between worlds exists to collect and ensure the continuity of every book it can get its hands on. Manned by lovers of books, named Librarians, these ageless superheroes (in my eyes, at least) spend their preternaturally long lives scouring the alternates for copies of books that may exist only there, or books that are inherently important to that alternate, or different variations on books so many of us have heard of.
The Invisible Library is both the name of the book and the name of this library between worlds, and it is a brilliant concept (that I imagine has at least something to do with Terry Pratchett’s own writings about libraries). It appeals instinctively to readers who love books on so many levels.
The only negative thing to say about the book is that at times characters fall victim to some lazy writing by the author - in one case a character so vehemently reveals a plot point that you cannot help but feel the author didn’t know how else to drop this information in other than blatantly and uncharacteristically.
This particular book takes place in an alternate world where technology is somewhat steampunk-ish, but less so, as magic and ‘chaos’ have perverted the world and made some technology useless and magic more important. The Fae have a strong presence in this London, but Irene, the Librarian star of this book, is up to the challenge. Along with a mysterious (not-so mysterious) student Librarian, a brilliant detective (who is Sherlock Holmes in all but name, and therefore someone Irene is instinctively drawn to), and a cast of other miscreants, law officers, and villains, The Invisible Library is a stunning work of art that has me absolutely begging for more.
As I said at the top, The Invisible Library is a world I want to write in. I want the opportunity to play in this sandbox, to visit the Library and meet someone new, and to take them on adventures through this intricate and magical world of alternate Earths and mysterious interdimensional libraries. However, I will have to satisfy myself with Genevieve Cogman treating me to future stories in this world, and I would recommend that you give yourself that same opportunity.
Joshua S Hill, 8.5/10
The Invisible Library is what I like to call a joyful little Sunday read, one of those books that I can pick up with my morning coffee and read in a single day as the sun shines (or if you're in the UK, the rain falls) and its okay to sit in your pyjamas all day.
Cogman has given us a very well written and formed novel, with a solid and vivid plot. The story revolves around the Librarian Irene, who is sent on a mission to recover a unique book for a Chaos infected world. However, it appears everyone else wants this book too, the result of which are obstacles such as vampires, werewolves, Fae and getting a little smitten for the worlds own version of Sherlock Holmes. There are flashes light and colour set against a world of darkness and secrets, and secrets within secrets. The Victorian era setting mixes effortlessly with the steampunk, magical creatures and zeppelins, the themes fluid and smooth in contrast to their opposing concepts.
The main character, Irene, is likeable and the overarching villain Alberich (who really only shows his face towards the end of the book) - while initially an abstraction and campfire nightmare tale told to other Librarians - was intriguing and left the reader wanting more.
Kia's presence for me did feel a little understated, I would have liked a more focus on his role and background, but can tell there is a lot more to come so was not greatly disappointed. I am looking forward to seeing how Kia personal history unfolds for Irene.
There were some nice mystery's and uncertainties left to the reader, my favourite being the planting of some seeds of doubt regarding the library as well as the mystery surrounding Alberich himself.
Overall, I really could not find fault with this story or it's writing. Cogman has provided a tale that is fun, with twists of darkness and secrets and plenty of action that will keep you turning the page and counting the days until the next book.
If you like you worlds colourful but dark, fantastical and adventurous, this is the book for you. Speak the name of the Library in the Language and the door will open. Step through at your own risk.
Fergus McCartan, 9/10
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