My review cross-posted from Wit and Sin
Enter the world of the Library, an interdimensional organization that collects important books from as many alternate dimensions as possible. Genevieve Cogman’s debut has an exciting premise and there’s a ton of possibilities to this world, but I struggled a bit with the execution.
The Invisible Library follows the journey of Irene, a junior Librarian, as she takes on Kai, a new apprentice, and is sent to an alternate version of Victorian-era London to steal an important book of fairytales. What should be a routine mission is anything but. The world is chaos-infested, one of the side effects of that being supernatural creatures exist, including the Fae. Things go wrong for Irene almost from the start, and she catches the attention of Vale, an alternate version of Sherlock Holmes, the powerful Fae Lord Silver, and an enemy of the Library who threatens to destroy not just Irene, but the whole world.
There are quite a few things that I liked about The Invisible Library. The premise is fantastic and of course a bibliophile like myself is ready and eager to enjoy a book about people who love books. The seemingly infinite number of alternate worlds means there’s a host of possibilities to explore, and I liked how Ms. Cogman set up the powerful forces of Fae and dragons and their respective representations of chaos and order. In short (so as to avoid spoilers), all the elements of a great story are there. That being said, the story did not live up to its parts. The world building was a case of tell, rather than show. There were seemingly endless amounts of exposition that slowed the book’s pace to a crawl. The characters aren’t very well developed (not even our principals, Irene and Kai, though Kai did charm me), most likely because there was no time to do so. Everything but the kitchen sink seemed to be thrown into this story, and quite a bit of it could have been cut without impacting the narrative. Less might have been more for a first book, as I’d have liked to have delved more into the characters and the different kinds of magic.
The Invisible Library is the kind of book I struggle with rating. While I did have a number of issues with this book, I can’t say I didn’t like it. The second half of the story found its footing and the pacing did pick up. More importantly (to me, anyway), I think Ms. Cogman has a great imagination and I’m excited to learn more about the world of the Library. There’s a lot of interesting information exposited in The Invisible Library that I didn’t unpack because it’d spoil the story. Suffice it to say that – while I struggled with the writing overall – the premise has me hooked and I look forward to seeing what Irene and Kai get up to in The Masked City.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.