The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

invisible libraryI have to admit that I tend towards books that are on the intense and emotion-heavy side, especially with speculative fiction. So it’s fun to every so often read a lighter book. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman is a great one to turn to in those moods. It’s a light and fun fantasy, with some cool worldbuilding and interesting mystery elements. It’s also Cogman’s debut, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Invisible Library is narrated by Irene, an agent of the Library, which collects fictions from across different realities and worlds. I liked Irene a lot–she’s capable and has a lot of strength and knowledge. In some ways, she’s not very confident, but these mostly stem from the hierarchies and politics of the Library itself, rather than internal doubts.

I also enjoyed the central conceit of the story, and I thought Cogman did a nice job of making it internally consistent. While the Library bears basically no resemblance to the living, breathing libraries I’ve worked in, Cogman also generally avoids being precious about the sacred value of learning. (Public libraries in particular are weird and wonderful places that aren’t exactly sacred sanctums of Knowledge.)

I thought the mystery element was pretty well played out–it can be tricky to balance a mystery when there are lots of extra fantastical bits going on at the same time. There were a couple of moments that were genuinely horrifying, although they never overwhelmed the overall tone of the book. I certainly didn’t guess the ending, and I thought the book did a good job of showing Irene and Kai as competent without being superhuman.

I’ll also note that the main Inspector in the alternate world is Indian. Irene herself seems to be canonically bisexual (although that term is never used); she’s been romantically interested in women in the past, but describes her type as dark and dangerous, and seems into at least one male character. I can’t say whether those representations are done well–there was one moment I have some questions about.

Some books end with everything neatly wrapped up and resolved. Others end with things mostly resolved. And still others end with new revelations and questions. The Invisible Library is definitely in the third category, which unfortunately is my least favorite of the three. However, I do genuinely want to know how it will play out. To the extent this works for me, it’s because the set up had been becoming more complicated throughout the whole book, rather than having a Surprise!Info dump ending.

All in all, despite a few minor quibbles, this was a really enjoyable fantasy, with some cool elements and nice characters. I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading the next one.

Book source: public library

Book information: 2016, Roc (in the US); adult fantasy

Other reviews: The Guardian; Li @ Book Daze; Supernaut; you?

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6 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

6 responses to “The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

  1. I do want to read this one…

  2. Anything with “Library” in the title always piques my interest, but I’m often disappointed in the book itself. “Light,” “fun” and “cool” make this one sound particularly appealing, but I might wait until the sequel comes out.

  3. Hey hey, there are all kinds of supernatural library books in my orbit these days. I’m just starting on Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone, which is a lot of fun thus far but we’ll see how it unfolds going forward. I think my position on magical libraries is one of skepticism — Alice at Reading Rambo has talked about how sometimes there’ll be books about books that are like BOOK PEOPLE ARE THE BEST PEOPLE and bloggers will go YAY BOOK PEOPLE ARE THE BEST TEN OUT OF TEN. :p So I think I’m alert to that kind of attitude in my magic libraries (or any magic book thing) books, and trying not to fall victim to this TEN OUT OF TEN thing.

  4. Thanks for the linkage! I really enjoyed this one – it was a fun adventure-type fantasy that didn’t take itself too seriously, though I agree there was a couple of genuinely horrifying moments that still stick in my mind.

    I hope you get to pick up the second book at some point.

    Li

  5. Pingback: August 2016 round up | By Singing Light

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