As I’m sure many of you are aware, Goodreads currently has the voting open for their 10th Annual Goodreads Choice Awards for 2018. While most of you probably vote for all of the books that were your favorites throughout the year, I am TERRIBLE at reading books the year they come out. I tend to forget about them and then remember years later (have I mentioned that my TBR list is 844 books deep?) that I wanted to read them. I’m lucky if I can find a single book that I’ve read in any of the categories. What the Choice Awards ARE good for (at least for me) though, is essentially gathering a list of all of the really great books from each category. What I end up doing is going through and adding pretty much all of them to my TBR list (because you know, its not already long enough as it is). I’m pretty sure the 5th book in this series, The Mortal Word, showed up in the YA Fantasy category (though I think it has since been voted out), and when I read the synopsis, I decided that I needed to read the entire series, posthaste. Luckily I was able to download the first book from my library digitally.
And then I finished it in less than a day.
The Invisible Library introduces us to Irene, a Librarian on behalf of the Library. Her job is to retrieve various books from various different alternate realities scattered throughout all the different dimensions and bring them back to the Library. There are 3 reasons why Librarians are sent out to alternates to find specific books: (1) because the book was important to a senior Librarian (because that’s not corrupt or self-serving at all); (2) because the book would have an effect on the Language; and (3) because the book was specific and unique to that alternate world. Unfortunately for Irene (and me, the reader), the reasons for retrieval are usually undisclosed. Upon her return from a successful mission, Irene is told by her boss, Coppelia, that she has a new recruit that she’s going to be mentoring by the name of Kai. As appears to be the custom with this mysterious Library, very few details are given before Irene and Kai head off in to a steampunk alternate to retrieve an original Grimm manuscript.
I won’t go in to too many details about the story itself, but I do want to briefly touch on my likes and dislikes.
I love that the Librarians get to name themselves when they become a Librarian. They choose their name going forward, and many of them choose a name from literary works, be that a book or a poem. I love the idea of this vast Library filled with so many books and never-ending hallways and tunnels. This Library is infinite and that makes me squeeee a little on the inside. Librarians also speak the Language, which allows them to spell (like magically spell – think Harry Potter – not spell words) things in the Library and in the alternate worlds that the Librarians visit. The Language also evolves based off of what books are brought in to the library. I love that Genevieve Cogman created a story that plays on the importance of the written word and examines how one work can influence society and life in general. Bonus points to her for making it fun to read too.
Now for my dislikes. First of all, there is a whole lot of stuff that the reader learns and then has to keep straight. Alternate worlds are essentially categorized by their levels of chaos. A Librarian can be infected by chaos. There are dragons and fae and werewolves and dragons and all sorts of supernatural beings that can exist either individually or together depending upon which alternate you visit. Unfortunately for the reader, all of the above are involved in the alternate that Irene and Kai are sent to to retrieve the Grimm manuscript. There are so many things to keep straight that all of the information gets kind of jumbled in to one big supernatural pile. Is it a magical world? Is it a steampunk world? Is it an ancient world? It’s more of an “all of the above” world. A multitude of themes leads to a multitude of confusion.
Second, both the cover of the book and the synopsis indicate that Irene is a spy, and while her missions tend to involve a lot of covert activities and aliases and blending in with different worlds, I don’t know that I would categorize her as a spy. I think her title as Librarian is pretty fitting for what she does. If I had to classify her as something, I think Treasure Hunter would probably be the most accurate and still reflect the amount of action the characters see in this book. She seeks out and retrieves books that are important to the world as a whole. And to be honest, she doesn’t seem to be so good at the whole covert thing. ♈ She ends up telling Vale, a detective in the alternate world that is the destination of her mission, pretty much everything about the Library, which is a big no no. ♈ The events of the book seem to spiral from Irene’s carelessness, though some are just happenstance. I guess if she were a good spy (we’re talking CIA level) there really wouldn’t be much for us to read.
Overall, there were a few instances where I felt myself going a little cross-eyed…
…but despite all of the things happening, my resulting confusion, the multiple realities, the various players and how they interact with all of the other players, I really liked this book. This was a good, quick, fun read, that was nicely paced and wasn’t overly dramatic with the action scenes. I immediately picked up the second book in the series and am currently reading it now, so the voodoo totally works.
Also, with this review, I am officially caught up on all of the books that I’ve already finished. Here’s to hoping I won’t get mired in my own backlog again (though the odds are never in my favor).