The Invisible Library
by Genevieve Cogman
Review by Gayle Surrette
Roc Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101988640
Date: 14 June 2016 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Irene is a junior librarian and works for the Invisible Library. It's not really invisible... well it is, but that's because it exists out of time and space. Dr. Who could probably get there in his TARDIS if it was in his universe. It also reminded me of the library at the Unseen University in the Discworld novels. I truly expected to hear an 'ook, ook' drifting out from behind a shelf of books.
But, the Invisible Library is more backdrop and command central as the library sends librarians out to alternate universes to retrieve books and manuscripts. The method of retrieval could be to purchase, trade, or steal the volume; how it is retrieved isn't really the point. The point is that they get a unique version of the book to keep safe from harm and for the use of the library's researchers.
The book begins just as Irene is finishing a mission and trying to return to the Library without getting caught. As soon as she's back, she's told to meet up with a trainee, Kai, who she's to take with her on her next mission. Once they meet up, they're off to a steam punkish alternate London to retrieve a unique version of Grimm's Fairy Tales. The problem is that when they get there, they learn that the person who had the book, doesn't have it any longer.
Their job isn't going to be easy as this world is infected with chaos, which means there are vampires and fae. Kai may be more than he seems, and he's keeping secrets. Irene may have to break a few rules and bend some others to get the manuscript, including using the services of this London's version of a detective. Now throw in zeppelins, armor-plated and radio-controlled beasties, secret societies that also want the manuscript, a rogue librarian known to hunt down and kill other librarians in horrific ways, and you have a high-energy, nonstop action adventure that's a real page turner.
The characters are quirky, interesting, and distinctive. The setting is a mix of steam technology with some very modern twists. It's also a bit Victorian in feel regarding the societal norms, but off enough to keep the main characters on their toes. The world building is interesting, as is the whole concept of the Library. The plot is tense and the action exciting.
I'm truly looking forward to the next installment in the series.