Series: The Invisible Library, Book 1
Author: Genevieve Cogman (site)
Publisher: Tor UK
Release Date: January 15, 2015
Genre: Adult Paranormal Mystery
Told: Third Person Singular (Irene), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (disturbing content, violence, mild proposition)
Format Read: Paperback (purchased)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase On: Amazon | Book Depository
The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies - think Doctor Who with librarian spies!
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.
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In a Sentence: A stellar library story concept that turned out to be a rambling mess of a mystery I could not follow.
Before I get into my deeply disappointed review, I must first note that I am not one for mysteries. I have great difficulty keeping all the characters and clues straight and struggle to follow the lines of thought and evidence and catch all the subtle hints. By the time I reach the end of the mystery I rarely care who did what with what where, and just want it to be over and done with. So when I discovered this book was not in fact the library adventure story I'd assumed but instead a book-focused mystery story, I despaired. But since the concept was still a really interesting one (and I'd paid good money for the book), I braced myself and dove in. I have read and enjoyed mysteries before, so I hoped with its bookish concept and British wit this would be another exception. But concepts and wit can only take a story so far for me if the main thread - here the mystery - isn't sound, and the mystery here was unfortunately a complete muddle thanks to messy writing, a chaotic world, and inconsistent magics and characters.
The Writing & Mystery: A rambling writing style can be a lot of fun when it has British wit at its disposal, but since the story here was a mystery the rambling created a mess of confusion and incoherency. Despite the characters taking too much time to hash out every little thing I followed almost none of their logic and reasoning, and the order in which they got their information and put things together was all over the place. Because of this the mystery element I naturally struggled with was completely incomprehensible, and eventually I had to read without mentally processing anything because I knew I'd never make sense of it.
The Magics: Another thing that was unfortunately all over the place was the magics, usually the best part of a book for me. They were complicated and rarely explained, but even when they were explained I found myself thinking "Doesn't that go against the rules?" or "Why didn't they do this, it's completely in their wheelhouse" which only served to frustrate me further. As with the mystery I eventually gave up trying to force logic upon the chaos and endeavored to enjoy the action for its sake without letting sense get in the way. I will say the Language (Library magic) was an interesting concept with very unique elements, but sadly I don't feel it was utilized to its full potential.
The Alternate Reality: The alternate London where the story spent most of its time was a chaotic mess of paranormal, steampunk, and Victorian elements. I expected the trio going in and gleefully anticipated a Gail Carriger-esque setting, but instead of what I know can be harmonious elements I found a complete disharmony. For the most part the elements stood separate, rarely meshing, and when they did mesh formed anything but coherency. I will admit the world was supposed to be a "chaos" one, which meant things weren't supposed to make complete sense, but it was still supposed to possess some and I really couldn't find it. There was nothing new with the steampunk or secret society elements, and aside for some little bits here and there everything was just as you'd expect and lacked any sort of dazzle.
The Library: I thrive on all things library and as a concept the Library here did not disappoint, even if it had little opportunity to. But when it did have the opportunity to dazzle, it didn't. We wandered through it for quite some time at the beginning and end of the book but saw almost nothing, and based on the events of the final chapter most likely even less of it will be seen in the next book.
The Characters & Creatures: The characters were on the surface rather fun, occasionally witty and somewhat interesting, but any deeper and they, like the story, became highly inconsistent. I really tried to get to know them, especially main character Irene, but I just couldn't keep up with the contradictory shifts of opinion and mood and personality. The role of the dragons was a one I hadn't come across before (although I rarely read about dragons so perhaps it wasn't all that unique), whereas the paranormal creatures and the Fae followed common laws and practices and so sadly offered nothing different.
The Romance: There was almost no romance to speak of, which here I appreciated. In the beginning Irene was propositioned by someone she had known less than a day which really did not fit, and I was happy when she turned them down and after some brief consideration pretty much put the entire matter of romance right out of her head. She was even given another possible romantic interest later on but never once considered them in that way, which I cannot say I have ever really read the likes of before and found very refreshing. Not that romance won't come up in later books, probably with both of them, but at least by then Irene will have known both for more than a week.
The End: The end made no sense to me, where they headed next and why more of a mystery than the entire book combined. As I came up on the final few chapters and considered the climax implications I was actually beginning to look forward to possibly reading the next book after all, but then what I'd been hoping for was shattered as the characters headed in basically the opposite direction. I can see said hopes maybe becoming the contents of book 3, but I don't think I can take another book like this one in between, which is exactly what was promised.
Conclusion: I wanted SO MUCH to love this book, but while I adored the concept I was deeply disappointed and frustrated with the contents. If I hadn't paid good money for it I wouldn't have finished it, and do not plan to spend any more money or time on any other books in the series. If you enjoy book-fueled paranormal mysteries and don't normally have trouble with a rambling story, then perhaps give it a try.
Diverse Elements: bisexual characters
For Fans Of: paranormal mysteries