THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by GENEVIEVE COGMAN
PB, 329 pages, Tor
Buy The Invisible Library: 1 (The Invisible Library Series) on Amazon
When we first meet Irene, she is stealing a priceless manuscript from a magically-guarded boys’ boarding school, fending off both gargoyles and werewolves in the process. It turns out this hazardous undertaking, rather than being an act of wanton criminality, is actually part of Irene’s job. As a Librarian for the interdimensional Library (capitalise the L, to differentiate it from all those regular very magical but non-interdimensional libraries. But hang on… L-space. We’ll come back to L-space…)
Anyhoo, Irene’s job is to obtain rare books from a variety of alternate worlds and bring them back to the Library. It’s a job that requires quick wit, courage, and fighting skills, all of which Irene has in spades. The Library exists in the space in between worlds, and a trained Librarian can open a portal to the Library anywhere as long as she is surrounded by a sufficiently large collection of books. Which brings us back to L-space – the Library is, in essence, a portal through L-space by which all sufficiently large collections of books are linked, as well as a repository for pretty much every book ever written.
Irene’s latest mission sees her sent to a quarantined world, a world under the influence of the Fae, to retrieves a rare version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. With her is Kai, a trainee Librarian with a big secret, and she is pursued by both rival Librarian Bradamant, who wants the glory of finding the book, and by Alberich, a former Librarian who has now gone rogue. This particular book contains some secrets he would stop at nothing, even murder, to protect.
On the streets and in the skies above an alternate London, Irene must take on werewolves, giant robot centiepedes, cybernetic alligators, a deadly Fae lord with a personal interest in her, and the secret that Kai is hiding, all to find one precious book. It’s a rollicking steampunk ride with a love of books and libraries (real and magical) that’s apparent on every single page. Irene is an adorable heroine, tough and determined but none too slick, and Alberich is a suitably dastardly foil to her talents.
This is a brilliant debut, and the first in a very promising series. Highly recommended!