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.