‘The Invisible Library’ by Genevieve Cogman

I’ve added ‘The Invisible Library’ series to my list of comfort reads, the books I read when I want no nasty surprises, no disappointments, no bleak existential reflections or complex moral challenges but just a clever adventure to slip into with a little wit, a little courage, a little magic, a lot of books. and a world that is not quite my own to play in.

Genevieve Cogman delivers all that AND has Librarians as the heroes, a Language-based magic that shapes reality, books that are sources of power and a huge Invisible Library that sits between all the worlds of the multiverse and keeps order and chaos in balance.

Our heroine, Irene, (who seems to have taken her name from Irene Adler of the Sherlock Holmes story ‘A Scandal In Bohemia) is sent on a mission to a Steam Punkish version of London (Zeppelins on the roof of the British Museum) that would normally be interdicted because it’s chaos-infected, meaning the Fae, rather than the order-loving dragons are in charge and supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves are taken for granted.

This story has everything: rivalries and secrets between the Librarians (somehow that’s very easy to believe), a very dangerous Librarian who has gone over to the Dark Side Forces of Chaos, a new assistant with a secret, an alternate London detective with striking similarities to Sherlock Holmes, cyborg alligators crashing cocktail parties and a Zeppelin chase across London.

This is a debut novel but you’d never guess that from the prose or from the way the story is put together. ‘The Invisible Library’ is one of those books that is clearly a work of love, created by someone hooked on the same kind of books that I am (Cogman apparently read Tolkein and Doyle at a very early age and never outgrew them – which I take as a sign of real intellect). The result is a fun romp, lubricated by clever humour but with darker themes not far below the surface. I loved that, although Irene carries out her mission, at the end of it there are more open questions than when she started, including a big one ‘What is The Invisible Library really for?’ I’m hungry to find out the answers to all of them.

If this had been the pilot for a new SyFy series, I’d have binge-watched the entire series. As it is, I’ve bought the next book in the series, ‘The Masked City’ and I’m going to get to it as soon as I can.

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