Review: “The Invisible Library,” Genevieve Cogman

Pros: Interesting setup
Cons: Didn’t keep me enthralled
Rating: 3 out of 5

Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library starts out with an interesting premise: Irene is a Librarian (with a capital L). She works for a mysterious interdimensional Library hunting down rare fiction books. This being a Library that connects to many alternate worlds, ‘rare’ usually means it’s a book that only exists in a limited number of dimensions. Irene’s current assignment has her hunting down a book that only exists in one world. She has a new student to mentor, Kai, who is… temperamental, and who becomes easily smitten with Irene. As it turns out, Irene isn’t the only person hunting the book. Bradamant is another Librarian who believes Irene has had it much too easy because her parents were both Librarians, so she’s determined to get to the book before Irene gets it. Add in a legendary Librarian and a book that turns out to be harder to track down than anyone realized, and Irene’s going to have to fight for her life. Thankfully, she has allies as well: Kai, and a detective named Vale.


There’s something referred to as “the Language” that the Librarians can use. It’s hard to describe. It can cause things to happen, although you have to watch your phrasing and loopholes, and the vocabulary of it is constantly being updated. (Think of telling a locked door to unlock and open as one example.) You have to be clever with it. However, I cannot understand at all why Librarians wouldn’t be issued a list of basic handy phrases to use in their travels so that they don’t have to constantly come up with results from scratch while in dangerous circumstances. Also, I’m not sure why any bad guy Librarian (uh, if there was such a thing) wouldn’t just spend a few days coming up with sets of phrases that could bend more of the world to his whim. I like the cleverness inherent in the Language’s nature, but it seems like it should be too powerful if someone actually sat down to take deliberate advantage of it.

The alternate world Irene finds herself in is of the London steampunk variety–think zeppelins everywhere. It seems to be a favorite setting of authors who write about time travel, romance, or… well, just about anything. I enjoy steampunk, but I wish it would lose some of its old England inheritance, especially if the author isn’t ready to go whole-hog with their own version of the setting. Trying to make Irene’s London interesting takes a back seat to the rest of the tale. Plucky librarians are also overused. Same with alternate worlds that involve magic, Fae, and dragons. However, some of the inhuman individuals have a great deliberate sense of melodrama and grandstanding that kicks things nicely into gear now and then.

Bradamant was very predictable despite the author’s attempt to stretch out the question of whose side she’s really on. It’s unfortunate, because I actually thought Bradamant would make a better main character than Irene does. I just could not dredge up much feeling for Irene and Kai. (I also couldn’t tell whether the author thought she’d created some sort of chemistry between Irene and Kai–if so, I wasn’t feeling it.)

The basics of the plot and the Library interested me, but unfortunately the characters didn’t, and it felt like the Language was a major plot hole waiting to happen.


Book provided free by publisher for review
Expected publication date: June 14, 2016

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