The Burning Page, Genevieve Cogman
Full disclosure: I did receive a review copy of this, but I also bought a copy.
I was really, really looking forward to this book, and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. It continues to be a fun romp, centring around that idea of an interdimensional library preserving all kinds of variant texts. The warmth and love of books is still a key feature, and the characters are the same group we’ve come to love. While the last book was a bit of a break from overarching plot, this one returned to it: in this one, Irene has to confront the rogue Librarian, Alberich — and he has some very big targets in mind this time.
I especially loved the visits to alternate worlds; I’d love to see more of that. The visit to a Russia ruled by an immortal Catherine the Great was pretty awesome, and there’s so much room for Cogman to play with all kinds of alternates. They aren’t the main point of the book or plot, but they’re still fascinating little microcosms of things that could be.
I’m relieved that this isn’t the last book, because there are a few more mysteries introduced here. Irene’s parentage, where the Library is going now… it feels like the beginning, rather than the end of a plot line. And if I have any disappointment about this book, it’s in that: somehow, the seeming end of the story arc didn’t feel final enough. There may be good reason for that, in which case this book would work better on a reread after reading sequels; for now, it just felt a little odd. It felt like a return to the status quo, without being knocked as far away from it as I’d expected.
There’s still plenty to wonder about, and plenty of room for more stories, thank goodness. I think I sound more critical than I really am; I enjoyed the book a lot, and read it in almost one gulp. The whole series is a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend it — especially if you need a break from reality.
The Masked City, Genevieve Cogman
With The Burning Page coming out, I decided to reread these two books. Just, you know, to refresh my memory… and because they’re a lot of fun. The Masked City was similarly fun this time round, giving the reader more of the fae and the dragons, more of the background. We get to know a little more about the importance of the Library… and we get adventures and hijinks with Vale and Irene. (Mostly. Kai gets captured early in the book, so we don’t see as much of him.) There’s a nicely high-stakes plot, and everything rattles along at an incredible rate, as you’d expect. And satisfyingly, for a reader, words — Language — give Irene one of her most powerful tools.
The books play in a fun way with tropes, and the concept of the library is bound to appeal to any bookworm.
Now let me hurry up and unearth the third book from my box of books.
The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman
I don’t know why I was rather hard on this book the first time I read it. It’s a romp, and there’s a lot of seemingly disparate elements — mechanical centipedes alongside the fae — but it comes together really well. The main characters are Irene, Kai and Vale, and they’re all pretty fun. Irene is capable, but not infallible. Kai is a bit of a mystery, but also a decent person who genuinely forms bonds with those around him. And Vale is the archetype of a great detective, which is rather fun — especially if you know your great detectives. Brandamant is also interesting: very different to Irene in some ways, and yet I think they do have commonalities, and perhaps that’s why they don’t like each other.
I still wish there was more time spent in the Library itself, but now that I reflect on it, that’s more the book lover in me than the plotter. The Library would severely cramp the action: I’m sure there is a story that would work with that setting, but this isn’t it — these characters aren’t the ones. Not in this book, anyway.
It’s a fast-paced romp, and on this reading, I completely devoured it and loved it. I’m almost tempted to give it the full five stars.