Any bibliophile who discovers a book with “Library” in its title will more than likely pick it up to read. There is a possibility that the book may not meet the bibliophiles’ expectations, but that is most certainly not the case for Genevieve Cogman’s debut, The Invisible Library. With an excellent balance of mystery, books, fantasy, mythical creatures, steam punk, Victorian London, and more, there really is not much else any bibliophile could ask for.
Different realities exist separate from each other, but there is one mysterious and unknown connection between all of them: the Library. The Library exists to collect and preserve important and unique works of fiction from each of the different realities and Librarian Irene is sent on a dangerous mission to an alternate London to retrieve a particularly dangerous book… a book that has been stolen by the time she arrives. With her assistant Kai keeping secrets from her and the alternate London being overrun by magic and chaos, she must find and retrieve the valuable book before an even greater threat would go so far as to kill her for it.
Perhaps the only downside to The Invisible Library is how it begins. It starts out slow and is a bit confusing with how the actual Library works: its sense of time, its layout, the different ranks of Librarians, etc. How the Library works almost sounds like what happens in the TNT show The Librarians, but instead of collecting different relics found in fiction, these Librarians collect books from different realities. However, this slow beginning makes readers want to keep reading to find out the answers that are explained later.
The story really takes off as soon as Irene and Kai arrive in the alternate London for many elements bibliophiles love are introduced. There are times when authors promise many different elements, but Cogman has come through on her promise and, as aforementioned, she balances every element out very well. Readers will find a healthy dose of steam punk found in Victorian London, well-known mythological creatures, a mystery that will keep readers reading, and, of course, references to various works of fiction.
Along with these well-known and well-received elements, Cogman’s characters will also be well-received by readers. Not many characters are introduced which helps to keep the story on track and easy to follow and readers will more than likely find themselves taking a liking to nearly all of the characters. Cogman is to be commended on her main two characters: Irene and Kai. First off, her female protagonist is a strong character who never plays the part of the damsel in distress, providing a breath of fresh air for readers. And while it is obvious that Irene and Kai will end up together at some point, Cogman bides her time with placing the two together romantically. While readers will find themselves really wanting the two to be together after each near encounter to strengthen their relationship romantically, their relationship as friends and as partners is well-executed and equally as enjoyable to read.
Cogman promises many elements bibliophiles will love in her debut The Invisible Library and she fulfills that promise. After reading past a bit of a slow beginning, readers will find themselves immersed in a world of mystery, books, fantasy, mythical creatures, steam punk, Victorian London, and more. To take readers through this world are likable characters who each possess their own unique and individual personality. Any reader who picks up this book due to its title and content will not be disappointed by its story and Cogman promises even more as her story continues in its sequel, The Masked City.