Reading The Mortal Word is some of the most fun you’ll have with a book in your life
As a reader I am often subject to the whims of life, work, and my own current interests. As a fantasy book reviewer, this can become difficult, because books can pile up while work or other projects take all my time, or when my health or interests mean I’m watching more TV or playing video games.
Subsequently, in 2020 I was forced to let two books by Benedict Jacka pile up, along with two books by Genevieve Cogman. Having finally finished reading and reviewing Fallen and Forged by Benedict Jacka, I was finally able to dedicate all my time to reading The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman (and its follow up, The Secret Chapter).
And, as happens every time I read a book by Cogman in her ‘The Invisible Library’ series I fall more and more in love.
Ever since I read The Invisible Library back in 2014, I’ve found myself hard-pressed to describe a better urban fantasy series. In fact, while she only reached 17 in my Top 30 (published earlier this year) I can’t help but wonder whether that was too low (but that, of course, simply raises other questions, such as who does she jump in front of?). As I said in that Top 30, however, “At a certain point you simply cannot put a book any higher – not because it doesn’t deserve it, but because there are so many other titles and series clamouring for the same space.”
The Mortal Word is Cogman’s fifth book in the series and is truly fascinating for the fact that, unlike the previous books, the Language does not play as much of a vital role as it has in the past. Within the world of ‘The Invisible Library’ the Language is a power above all manner of living and inanimate things, wielded by the Librarians. And, as with any magical power in fantasy literature, it can sometimes overshadow the story.
However, in The Mortal Word, the detective story at the heart of the book was the primary plot device, and the Language cannot necessarily solve all mysteries and reveal all secrets. As such, we got to spend more time in the minds of Irene and her companions as they sought out who was trying to destabilise the peace talks behind held between the Fae and dragons.
What we are given, then, is a good old fashioned detective story – unsurprising, given the author’s love for the genre, and the main character’s love for the genre – set in an 1890s Paris plagued by anarchists which has been deemed the most neutral location for the contentious peace talks.
Introduce dozens of Fae, dragons, and Librarians to a city already in unrest, and what you get is a fantastic and utterly captivating romp through the detective genre, interspersed with some of the wittiest writing you’ll find around.
Cogman’s prose is absolutely spellbinding, at times hilarious and comical, at other times deep and emotional, and at other times fast paced and action packed to the rafters. There are genuine laugh out loud moments that are intended, and others that stem from a particularly clever turn of phrase. And while the prose is wonderful, the story does not suffer, and keeps you guessing and on your toes until the very end – at which point there are much larger issues to worry about flying over Paris.
Reading The Mortal Word is some of the most fun you’ll have with a book in your life, and the fact that there’s already seven novels published (as of January 2021) means there’s more fun just around the turn of the page. Clever and witty, all while offering up a love letter to the detective genre and balancing the smartest urban fantasy worldbuilding in the business, The Mortal Word is an absolute gem and a must read for just about anyone.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Today I have the pleasure to speak with Genevieve Cogman, author of the fantastic and imaginative The Invisible Library. Genevieve has been kind enough to answer some questions about herself and her book, as well as contribut [...]
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