Book Review

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Now that was fun! The Invisible Library is not a book with a large amount of heavy emotion or thought or character development, but it’s a solidly crafted adventure story with appealing characters, in which book lovers run amok in an alternate universe where they have to deal with skin-stealing villains, cranky zeppelin pilots, and swarms of silverfish (eww).

The Library is a massive library that exists in its own time and space and which stores books from all realities (this book is big on the idea of the multiverse). Irene is a librarian who is sent with a student, Kai, to retrieve a unique edition of fairy tales by an alternate reality version of the Grimm Brothers. The edition is on a world that combines magic and technology in a fantasy/paranormal/steampunk mashup that drives Irene right up the wall but that delights and fascinates Kai.

Naturally the mission gets complicated. The book is at the center of intrigue and conflict between factions on the world including The Fae, Vampires, a detective, and at least one rogue Librarian. Not to mention that Irene can’t fully trust her mentor who assigned her the mission, and that there’s something weird about Kai.

This book can best be summed up by the following quote:

Irene felt a desperate surge of nostalgia for her Library. Her life was more than just airship chases, cyborg alligator attacks, and hanging out with this alternate universe’s nearest analogue to Sherlock Holmes. She was a Librarian, and the deepest, most fundamental part of her life involved a love of books. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to shut the rest of the world out and have nothing to worry about except the next page of whatever she was reading.

There’s no romance in this book although there are some flickers that make me wonder if love will grow in the sequel (The Masked City will be published on September 6, 2016 in the US). I found the lack of romance to be somewhat refreshing given that everyone is really too busy for romance to develop. This is not stopping me from madly shipping Irene with Vale, the detective.

Very little of the book takes place in the Library, possibly because reading about people reading is not as exciting as reading about sword fighting with cyborg alligators in a ballroom. I would have liked a bit more time in The Library, though. Given the fact that not only is it a vast repository of rare books but it’s also a place where many people live for decades, what is it like? Is there a cafeteria? How’s the food? Do people have apartments? Do they fight over space? The fact that we leave the Library setting about two minutes after the book starts seems like a missed opportunity. Frankly, fantasy worlds that are infused with magic and with a steampunk sensibility are a dime a dozen, but Libraries that are also homes to what I assume are hundreds of people are rare.

While I genuinely loved the characters and concepts of the book, it’s played strictly for fun adventure. This isn’t a philosophical book. There’s some character development, but it’s not huge. It’s basically just an excuse to have smart people fight cyborg alligators in a ballroom and werewolves in a museum. Luckily during the week that I read this book I was stressed out so it was just what I needed. It’s smart, well-written fluff and I ate it up with a spoon. I am avidly waiting for the sequel.

This book is available from:
  • Available at Amazon
  • Order this book from apple books

  • Order this book from Barnes & Noble
  • Order this book from Kobo
  • Order this book from Google Play
  • Order this book from Audible

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
We also may use affiliate links in our posts, as well. Thanks!

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

View Book Info Page

Add Your Comment →

  1. Irene Headley says:

    I was absolutely delighted, reading this, that a) Irene is openly bisexual, and not shamed for it, and b) her rivalry with another woman is not over romance, but is because they have different beliefs.

    Also I ship Irene/Bradamont, because I am here for sexy lady rivals.

  2. msb says:

    I adored this book and its sequel. While this review gives a great sense of the thrill of reading the Invisible Library, I think it misses some more serious themes: its feminism, its taking diversity for granted (what a relief), its sly fun-poking at some standard tropes of romance and the start of its exploration of both power relationships and the idea of balance between chaos and rationality (the latter is much deeper examination in the sequel, The Masked City).

  3. Olivia says:

    Okay, I haven’t been interested in reading anything but romance in a long time, but this looks super awesome. Librarians (rule!), fairy tales, and a bisexual character! OMG.

  4. Hera says:

    I find the cover on this book restful.

  5. Darlynne says:

    Some readers struggled with the first part of the book, me included. I can’t remember now if the pace seemed slow or if I just couldn’t keep track of everyone. So glad I stuck with it, a fun read and I’m eager for the sequel.

  6. Aubrey Wynne says:

    This looks like something totally different from my normal reads. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Maite says:

    I glommed this one and the sequel in two days. Long airplane journey. Didn’t even notice I didn’t get to sleep a wink because: Gigantic Libraries! Diversity! Zeppelins! High drama Fae! Stolen books! The power of Words! Venice in Carnaval!

    It wasn’t until midway through book two that I realized that Irene is a really unusual heroine. She’s practical and direct. She Gets Things Done. Also, she’s really, really old. There’s no reference to how old she is, but considering that time stops within the Library, she could be any age.

    I want more heroines like this.

  8. kitkat9000 says:

    This wasn’t even on my radar but dear gods, does it sound interesting. Definitely going to check this out though I’m going to wait for September to get the 2nd book as well. Thanks for the heads up.

  9. Miriam of Leon says:

    I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved.

    Intelligent heroines and heroes, a diverse cast, a steampunk world that doesn’t make me gag on the unconscious racism/sexism/classism/etc. Women not liking each other, but not stabbing each other in the back, because they’re professionals. Women, in general.

    I did call a plot point very early on, which I do tend to think poorly of, but other than that, I can’t wait for book 2, and think that it’s very unfair that book 4 is about to come out in England.

    (Also, Genevieve Cogmen’s wrote GURPS: Vorkosigan and worked on Exalted. (The second is a pen-and-paper fantasy role-playing game based heavily on anime and wuxia tropes. The rest is a setting book for a pen-and-paper role-playing system which let’s you play games in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkoverse.) As an enthusiastic reader of RPG manuals and a generally unenthusiastic reader of RPG novelizations, it’s very clear that Genevieve took the best lessons from her RPG work and left behind the stuff that makes the reader hear dice rattling in the background.

Add Your Comment

Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↑ Back to Top