BOOK REVIEW: THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY / AUTHOR: GENEVIEVE COGMAN / PUBLISHER: TOR / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 15TH
The Invisible Library is one of those debut novels that begins with a really cool idea and then continues to batter the reader with detail until you have no option but to either stop reading or surrender to the sheer volume of fun that appears on every page. This novel begins with Irene, our protagonist, sneaking her way into the library of a rather posh school in order to steal a precious book on Necromancy. This sets of an alarm which results in a pleasing chase scene involving the main character, a small army of school boys, and several gargoyles, before our hero escapes via an extra-dimensional portal.
It turns out that Irene is an agent of the titular Invisible Library, a pan-dimensional structure that has the most comprehensive collection of books from across the multiverse. The library itself sits in a nexus between alternate realities. Those who live and work there, the Librarians, not only tend to the books but also ensure that key books are rescued from realities that are endangered by chaos.
Obviously, Irene’s next mission takes her to a world with too much chaos and this means fairies. Even more interestingly, this Victorian era world is resisting the infection by wrapping pseudo-science around everything. The result is an intriguing steampunk world, filled with fantastic creatures, cyborg alligators and, of course, a version of Sherlock Holmes.
Steampunk novels have a tendency to take an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to storytelling, but the appropriately named Cogman has carefully avoided her story from being too cluttered by creating a fun and inclusive backstory to the world. We care about Irene and her companions despite their flaws, and though the various character interactions are a little clumsy at times, the story makes up for it by throwing another fun idea at the reader.The Invisible Library is an interesting mix; Sapphire and Steel meets The Unseen University by way of The Parasol Protectorate, which makes it a thoroughly entertaining mis-match and great fantasy romp.
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