The Invisible Library is the first in a series of novels by Genevieve Cogman. It follows the adventures of Irene, a junior Librarian who works for the titular Library. The Library’s purpose is to collect and preserve works of fiction from a series of alternate worlds, all linked by the library. That collection and preservation can involve something as simple as purchasing a copy of a book, or it can involve much more exciting and less lawful actions.
The premise of The Invisible Library is the search for the manuscript of a version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. To obtain it, Irene has to travel to an alternate Victorian London full of steampunk gadgets, supernatural beings and malevolent Fae. She takes a new apprentice, Kai, along for the ride, and while there teams up with a gentleman detective called Vale. But her arch-rival, the librarian Bradamant, is also after the same book and its most recent owner has just been very publicly murdered. What follows is part mystery story, part adventure, with a relentless pace.
As the opening novel to the series, The Invisible Library delivers extremely well. On top of a rip-roaring adventure full of alligators and zeppelins, we are introduced to what will be the main characters of the series and what appears to be the narrative arc that will underlie the whole series: the mystery at the heart of the Library itself.
Part Pratchett’s L-Space, part Gormenghast, the Library is a warren of dusty corridors and rooms of mind-boggling size (it can take days to travel from one section to another). It is looked after by Librarians who split their time between acquisitions and personal research. Politics is rife between senior librarians. And shortly after arriving in her alternate London, Irene is advised that the infamous rogue Librarian Alberich is around and may well be after the same copy of Grimm.
Goodreads rating: 4*