Author: Genevieve Cogman
I’ve never understood people when they say they don’t like fantasy because of all the proper nouns. For example, when Skyrim first came out and attracted a certain amount of displeasure for starting out with a near ten-minute sequence of riding in a cart while your companions sound off like they’re reading directly from the ‘Encyclopaedia of Nerdery: Game of Thrones Deep Lore Edition’. But now I get it; for the opening of this book imagine that but longer, and you’re walking instead of riding in a cart.
So yes, I wasn’t impressed by the beginning of this book, I don’t mind a walrus tonne of lore but I found the explanation of it clumsier than a teenage sofa session and my interest was slipping, yet; there was a lot that intrigued me about the book still. After all what book lover does not love the idea of being employed as a book wrangler across multiple magical/steampunk dimensions for (near enough) eternity, for a library that exists in its own special library dimension?
There are very few people I know who wouldn’t want this particular job.
And so I am in a position I’ve only been in once before of disliking a book’s opening only to absolutely love the rest of it. Seriously, once the book stops trying to vomit exposition on you and just shows you the world through natural narrative pacing it’s bloody brilliant.
As I’ve already mentioned we have steampunk, magic and alternate realities, and all of these are balanced and affected by order and chaos (I have a sneaking suspicion the author is a DnD fan). We’re taken to visit one of these worlds to search for an alternate copy of the Grimm fairytales by Irene and her assistant Kai.
Irene’s pretty cool; she’s a good solid character who I liked a lot and the cast floating around her are nice too. I was a fan of Irene’s rival librarian, she added an interesting dynamic and some good twists. The author is obviously a fan of BBC’s Sherlock since her detective character may as well have been called Benedict Cumberbatch, but you know what – who doesn’t like Sherlock in that series? I can let his inclusion slide.
But what really captured me was the world and plot, which is just epic. Perfect mix of intrigue (there are enough characters that you’ll probably point the finger at several red herrings throughout the book), fantasy action (there’s zeppelin flying and werewolf fights and an alligator attack) and genuine twists that will twist your stomach (I can’t say that would spoil, but if you expect some of the things that happen then you’re kind of disgusting).
Yet none of this stops the author from remembering to have fun at all times, no moment is too serious for a bit of dry humour, I think it’s important the book with cyborg alligators in it can laugh at itself.
So while I can’t give it my top recommendation for a messy opening and a romance I can see on the horizon that (at the moment at least) is looking to be about as awkward as that teen sofa session I mentioned earlier, I strongly recommend this book. I love it enough that I’ve already ordered the next book at any rate.
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.