The Invisible Library Genevieve Cogman, 2016.
Irene is a Librarian with a capital L.
She is careful with her grammar. (By necessity: the language of the Library is very powerful.)
She is level-headed. Capable. Passionate about all books. (She does harbor a secret fondness for detective fiction.) And she is highly effective at self-defense.
She needs all of these qualities, because her job is to infiltrate alternate realities and retrieve, that is, steal, books unique to that reality.
Just back from a taxing assignment burgling a book on necromancy from a school of magic – which involved a rather narrow escape from hellhounds and gargoyles – Irene is ordered to a quarantined, chaos-infested alternate.
This is less than optimal. Natural laws don’t apply so much in chaotic worlds. Plus, the Fae tend to cause extra disorder there. Not only that, Irene is saddled with a handsome, mysterious student named Kai who is much more than he appears.
The two arrive in an alternate Victorian-esque London suffused with magic and steam technology: dragons and zeppelins and werewolves and clockwork centipedes. Their task is to pilfer a special copy of Grimm’s fairy tales. In the process, they befriend a dashing private investigator but run afoul of almost everyone else: a secret Iron society, one of Irene’s unpleasant colleagues, and a mesmerizing Fae ambassador. Oh, and a rogue Librarian who has turned to the dark side and become an agent of chaos. Everyone wants the book. Irene has her work cut out for her.
The Invisible Library is simply a joy. Cogman deftly blends fantasy and sci-fi to create a version of London so wonderful and immediate that the reader wishes they could hop on the first plane – or dirigible – and go visit. Irene herself is a plucky heroine whose proper (mostly) and wry inner monologue is just delightful. This is a splendidly satisfying adventure packed with highly imaginative action sequences, novel characters, fun literary references and a wicked sense of humor. The Invisible Library is a book to curl up with on a grey day and immerse yourself in the bewitching chaos of a reality where almost anything is possible, and yet be ultimately comforted by the notion that there is a magnificently powerful Library where order does indeed exist. And, thank goodness, The Invisible Library is the first in a series.