One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction... Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...
Dear Genevieve Cogman,
I learned about your book’s existence while lurking at file 770. As evidenced by my grade I really enjoyed it. I was drawn to the book because the blurb promised the Library (with capital L) being at the front and center of the plot. I know I cannot speak for everybody, but library was one of my favorite places to visit while I was growing up and I would imagine it holds true for many book lovers around the world. Well, so far the first book vastly exceeded my expectations and I hope the book two and three will not disappoint me.
We meet Irene when she is working as a spy for the Library trying to steal a book which Library wants for its collection. This mission takes place before the mission that blurb is referring to. As we will learn later on this was a much less dangerous mission than the one Irene would have to work on next, but when the book starts one would not be able to guess that. Irene is at the magical school for boys and while she manages to get the book, let’s just say that everything did not go smoothly for her.
I really enjoy when the book does not start with info dumping and instead puts me in the middle of the action. I do not mind a little confusion in the beginning as long as the author would orient me in the world she created soon enough and I think this writer managed this with gusto.
We learn that mysterious library’s mission is to collect the books from many alternate worlds which exist in this universe in order to strengthen the ties with these worlds. Apparently librarians/spies do not always steal the books, sometimes they even manage to locate and buy the copies, but often enough their missions are dangerous. As the story goes by we learn that some/ a lot of these worlds are being consumed by chaos and the blurb correctly explains what chaos means in this universe. Apparently library exists between the worlds and actually functions as stabilizing force for the worlds with which Library has sufficiently strong links (so apparently this is one of the reasons Library wants specific books from these worlds).
I thought the mythology of this book was fascinating. For example some well-known fantastical species are used to be the two opposite elements of the dichotomy – some agents of order and some agents of Chaos. I do not remember ever reading a book where these species were used in a similar way. It was just such a creative twist in my opinion. Certainly this is not the first story where Library is a character of the sorts, but what this Library can do (and I suspect we have not seen most of it yet) is so interesting and at times I did not expect that at all.
I really liked Irene. Once again I would imagine that many of the book lovers could relate to why Irene is working for the library and why this is the kind of life she likes living.
"Irene shut the book reluctantly. Of course she had to send it to Coppelia first, for inspection and evaluation, but perhaps after that she could get her hands on it again. There was nothing wrong with being curious about how a story turned out, after all. She was a Librarian. It went with the job. And she didn’t want great secrets of necromancy, or any other sort of magic. She just wanted—had always wanted—a good book to read. Being chased by hellhounds and blowing things up were comparatively unimportant parts of the job. Getting the books—now, that was what really mattered to her. That was the whole point of the Library—as far as she’d been taught, anyway. It wasn’t about a higher mission to save worlds. It was about finding unique works of fiction and saving them in a place out of time and space. Perhaps some people might think that was a petty way to spend eternity, but Irene was happy with her choice. Anyone who really loved a good story would understand. And if there were rumours that the Library did have a deeper purpose—well, there were always so many rumours, and she had missions to complete. She could wait for more answers. She had time."
I liked that she was so devoted to her work; I always found it an admirable trait. I thought that she was competent but not arrogant. She made mistakes, but she always fought hard and gave it her best try. I have not met a character like her for quite some time now.
When her superiors give her a new mission which actually takes place during most of the story (first mission literally occupies first several pages of the book) for the first time she is entrusted with the trainee named Kai. I liked Kai *a whole lot* and as blurb states he has his own secrets to keep and some of them are revealed and I was very pleased with the revelation. Kai is strong and talented in what he does, but I was extremely pleased that during the whole book Irene remained solely in charge of the mission and as much as Kai helps she was making the decisions for both of them and Kai followed orders ( most of the time anyway J). I just so rarely see it. That does not mean that Irene did not ask for help from Kai when she needed it by the way, that does not mean that her decisions were always perfect, but she came as close as being competent spy/librarian while still having things to learn (she is not a Senior Librarian yet ) as I could wish for.
You would probably want to know whether there is a romance in the book. The answer is not yet and quite frankly I would hope not, but my guess is that one is coming sometime in the next book. Kai clearly likes Irene enough to proposition to take her to bed (to his credit he does it once and does not do it again after receiving a negative answer) and I got the impression that the only reason she said no was because she was concentrating on getting the job done. But we shall find out I guess. And there is another guy who could be possible candidate for Irene’s affections in the future books.