The Masked City – Genevieve Cogman

Having loved The Invisible Library so much, I was keen to move on swiftly to its sequel, The Masked City.  It was published at the start of December by Tor, who kindly gave me a review copy through NetGalley.

The Masked City sees Irene forced to rely on her own wits and resources alone.  Her apprentice Kai has been kidnapped by a powerful Fae and taken to a high-chaos world.  Only Irene can rescue him, because her Library brand gives her some protection against the Fae and the high-chaos world.  But she is forced to carry out her rescue without the assistance of her employers in the Library or her detective friend Vale.  Indeed, she is forced to call on assistance from Lord Silver, her Fae adversary from the first book, who is a rival of Kai’s kidnapper.

While Irene’s friends are fantastic, it’s great to see what she can do by herself.  For the most part, this is a chance to showcase Irene’s cleverness and ingenuity, as well as her sheer tenacity and strength of will.  She poses as a lesser Fae to infiltrate the train transporting Fae to the chaos world where Kai is being held, and uses that world’s narrative logic to help effect her eventual escape.

If I had one quibble, it would be an over-reliance on Irene using the Language, the Library’s ‘magical’ way of controlling things and people, to get out of scrapes.  If overused it runs the risk of becoming a lazy way of resolving a perilous situation.  I would have liked to have seen a little more of Irene’s creative ingenuity coming through in those circumstances.

But those are minor quibbles and the story romps along with great verve and pace, like its predecessor.  It’s a tremendously fun read.  By the end, we’ve learned more about Kai and his family, and Cogman has shown us more of the fascinating world she has created.  I can’t wait for the next installment.

Goodreads rating: 4*

The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman

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*