Author: Genevieve Cogman
The Invisible Library #2
You know what’s great for having lots of room for books? Renovating a house. You know what sucks up all your time that would’ve otherwise been allocated to reading and blogging? Renovating a house. No prizes for guessing what my life currently involves.
Dragons, Venice, Fae, heists and interdimensional librarian spies! If one or three or all of those things sounds good, then The Invisible Library series might be for you. In the first book (titled “The Invisible Library,” reviewed here) Librarian Irene and her apprentice Kai arrive in a steampunk London alternate that is home to detective Vale, the incorrigible Fae Lord Silver, and a whole slew of chaos forces. Now serving as the Librarian-in-Residence for that alternate, Irene and Kai are settling into a new kind of normal – until Kai has to go and ruin everything by getting kidnapped. If you haven’t read The Invisible Library, here’s your obvious spoiler alert for certain aspects of that book. Proceed with caution.
As a dragon (whoop spoiler), Kai represents order, while the Fae embody chaos and unreality. The alternate London Irene and Kai were living in was already contaminated with a high level of chaos, but the alternate Venice Kai is taken to is beyond corrupt. The chaos is too potent for any of Kai’s fellow dragons to help Irene, so she has to rely on Lord Silver to smuggle her in – a bargain that understandably makes her very nervous. Only the fact that their home world lies in the balance puts them on the same team, because if the dragons decide to take vengeance for Kai’s kidnapping then nobody is safe.
What I really liked about The Masked City is how it builds on the framework established in The Invisible Library. In the first book, we mostly learn about what the Library is and how its agents operate. We’re introduced to the Fae and dragons, but don’t get much detail on them. The Masked City elaborates extensively on how both species operate, and the result is a sequel that doesn’t simply ride on the coattails of a successful first installment, but contributes positively to the series.
The Fae are a fascinating bunch.
Describing them feels really meta, because they derive power from fulfilling standard story archetypes. It creates a story-within-a-story vibe, as Irene has to consciously avoid being pulled into cookie cutter plotlines while she tries to uncover Kai’s whereabouts. We see more variation than Lord Silver trying to set up a rogue/damsel in distress scenario – there are coldhearted powerbrokers, spiritual storytellers and a whole slew of second-tier Fae fulfilling supporting roles for the more powerful members of their race.
We also meet a few more dragons, though the Fae largely steal the spotlight. The dragons are steeped in tradition and look upon other species as lesser beings. At best, they ignore you. Worst case scenario, they view you as a threat and take drastic corrective action. Either way, they’re hard to do business with and are best left undisturbed.
The cacophonous cast matches the perpetual Carnival state this Venice is locked in. Any of the Fae would sell Irene out in a heartbeat if they discovered her true identity, and the excitement of a captive dragon’s presence only ratchets up the danger. There’s only a small window of time for Irene to find and rescue time, and the suffocating amount of chaos magic strains her bond to the Library. With no allies and few clues to go on, The Masked City is an uphill battle to save not only Kai, but prevent a universe-wide war between chaos and order.
This is a great second installment to the series, and The Burning Page is set to be released this January. They’re decently quick reads, but not so brief as to be unsatisfying, so now is the perfect time to jump in!
One last thought – the author Q&A finally describes the Librarian’s back tattoo that links them to the library, so excuse me while I go scamper off to get some swag ink.