The Invisible Library (#1) by Genevieve Cogman

  • Title : The Invisible Library (#1)
  • Novelist : Genevieve Cogman
  • Publisher : Pan MacMillan
  • Categories : Steampunk, Fantasy, Mystery

A cover that imitates the leather, a title that mentions a mysterious library, a summary talking about a book-based treasure hunt…You needn’t a bigger hook to catch me.

The invisible Library is a shelter of thieves! That place is out of space and time and is keeping many books from alternative worlds. However, it’s not just any works. Only the unique and specific to the world books can join the labyrinthine bookshelves. The librarians collect them because of :

  1. The senior librarians’ research.
  2. Their effect on the language
  3.  Their power to strengthen the link between the Library and the alternative world

Irene wanders the alternative universes for this secrete society. Sometime she puts her life in danger to get and to keep the precious pamphlets. Her intelligence and the language (a non-magic power that works on object when you respect their essence) help her to fulfil the missions. She is perceptive. She analyses the situations from every angles. She has her own librarian code of honour. She dares to use every tools or persons even the undesirable ones if it/he helps her to find the book.

During her new task, she must head an apprentice, Kai. Behind his good boy and newbie image, he is slightly mysterious. You can rely on him. He has a gift to get used to the situation. It is an important quality to melt into the worlds to find the target without drawing the attention. 

Our book thieves cross over the gate that brings them in a 19th century London where Steampunk stands alongside fantastic beasts. Werewolves, vampires, faes are common. The aim of the mission is to collect an edition of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. There are two problems. Firstly, this world is infected by the Chaos. Secondly, Belphegor stole the book and his owner was murdered.

Irène and Kai put on Sherlock Holmes’s hat and they make their own enquiries in avoiding their enemies and their metallic bugs. During their adventure, they meet colourful characters:  Bradamant the rival and Irene’s former mentor, and Peregrine Vale, the famous detective.

Genevieve Cogman built a fascinating and complex universe where the literary genres and references melted. One of the strong points of the novel is the working of the language and its constraints. The action blends with the investigation using fight and strategy. The boredom is absent. However, some episodes are similar and leave a déjà-vu feeling. Faes, dragons, magic and other beasts match with science and technology of the 19th century perfectly. I like that the novelist mentions small countries even if the main plot is taking place in London.

There is only an extract that made me gnashing my teeth because it leads to the idea that smile can distinguish women and men. « His lips curved in a smile that was somehow more a man’s than a woman’s. » I could have understood it if that sentence was said by a native of this alternative world. Its etiquette might cause a different behavior according to your sex. However, Irene is from another world, she experienced a lot of universe and society. Therefore, it’s illogical that she has such kind of idea.

I have a mixed view about the end. I wasn’t expected such development. Because of the synopsis and the kind of series, I had thought it was something more classical. I’m both curious and fearful about the next opus.

Briefly, The Invisible Library is a novel that is at the crossroad of genres (mystery, steampunk, fantasy). It has a captivating and complex world.

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