The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman

>> Friday, February 12, 2016

TITLE: The Invisible Library
AUTHOR: Genevieve Cogman

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Alternate reality
TYPE: Fantasy
SERIES: I believe it starts a series

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.

London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...
I thought I was going to love this one.

Irene is an agent who works for the Library. This is the invisible library of the title, an organisation that (from what I can tell from the first half of the book) occupies the space in between many alternative versions of our world. Irene's work seems to consist of going into those alternate worlds to retrieve books that are of particular interest to the Library, a job that often involves danger and deception and even having to spend months in that world creating a plausible character to get access.

The mission Irene is assigned here is twofold. She's to take a novice under her wing and train him up, and she is to retrieve a volume of the Grimms' fairy tales from an alternative version of Victorian London. This is a world which has developed both magic and steampunk-type technology. The volume has been stolen from a nobleman who happens to be a vampire, and Fae involvement is suspected. All unremarkable enough as missions go, but Irene is alarmed to see that the world has been placed under a quarantine, as Chaos has began to infiltrate it. And before her mission goes very far, she's notified that a dangerous criminal, a renegade Librarian, is involved.

It sounds great, doesn't it? The idea of the library is cool, and the steampunky world is vividly described. My problem was that Cogman gave me no reason to care about any of what was going on. I had no idea of what the library was supposed to be for or trying to do, so I did not feel there was anything really at stake in Irene's mission. Irene must do this because she's been told to just doesn't cut it. And although Irene and her assistant, Kai, are superficially interesting enough, I didn't really connect to them as characters, so I didn't particularly care about the danger they were facing.

I read almost half the book before I realised I was forcing myself to pick it up. It's always a bad sign when I only read a book on my 20-minute journey to work... that's basically how I force myself to finish the books for book club that I'm not enjoying. I didn't have to finish this, so I didn't.

MY GRADE: This was a DNF.


Marianne McA,  12 February 2016 at 13:06  

That all rang a bell for me - I couldn't decide if I'd read it or not, or had read an excerpt of it somewhere, so I checked my kindle, and it's there, 27% read and abandoned.

I think I just forgot about it. So clearly, Cogman didn't make me care enough either.

I might give it another go, though. I hate DNFing, but if I'm going to DNF I want it to be on purpose, not just through absent-mindedness.
(But first I'm going to read Rowell's Fangirl. I read 'Carry On' on Wednesday and just loved it - Harry Potter fanfic memories galore - so I'm hoping the books read okay in the wrong order.)

Rosario 13 February 2016 at 09:41  

That says it all, doesn't it? I've heard it does get better in the second half, so if you fancy giving it another go, it might work for you.

Hope you like Fangirl! I really enjoyed it and have Carry On in my TBR :)

Darlynne 13 February 2016 at 17:27  

I struggled with this book, too, but did finish it and am glad for having done so. There wasn't much to hang on to, however--not enough about the characters, their backgrounds--and for once I was wishing for more tell than show; I kept thinking "wait, why is this happening" and there was never much explanation. The second half was better, certainly more interesting, and I've toyed with getting the next book if someone says it accomplishes what the first didn't.

Li 14 February 2016 at 19:23  

Oh, I really liked this one! I thought it was lots of fun, though perhaps lacking a bit of depth.

I did not feel there was anything really at stake in Irene's mission. - maybe it was this that was missing...

Darlynne - I enjoyed the second book too, but obviously, I may not be the best person to comment!

Rosario 16 February 2016 at 08:57  

Darlynne: That's the second time I've heard the second half was better, maybe I should have persevered!

Li: I so loved the idea of it, just wanted more... characterisation, I suppose.

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