Tag: Genevieve Cogman

Review – Scarlet

Posted June 30, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of Scarlet by Genevieve CogmanScarlet, Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman’s books have all so far been great reads that quickly got me hooked, and Scarlet wasn’t really an exception! The start is a little bit slower, or perhaps just less inherently compelling to me than a book thief, but the world setup is interesting. I might’ve got off the ground faster if I’d read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but the Wikipedia summary seemed to serve me well enough — especially since the vampires are entirely original to the Pimpernel’s story.

The main character, Eleanor, is a servant who happens to greatly resemble a French aristocrat — someone the Scarlet Pimpernel intends to rescue from the Revolution, along with her children. Eleanor is asked if she’s willing to go and do this, for the sake of a woman and her children, in exchange for getting set up in London as a modiste when she gets back. The group kind of undersell the dangers, but she quickly realises them for herself — and enters whole-heartedly upon the quest, learning how to pass herself off as a French aristocrat, and both enjoying and dreading her exposure to the wider world beyond the estate she originally served.

Is it historically accurate? Of course not. Is Eleanor a little too surprisingly capable, a little too eager to leap into a situation beyond her original/expected station? Perhaps, but it’s fun. I’m intrigued to see where certain aspects of it are going, too — there’s clearly plenty more to come.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,


Review – The Untold Story

Posted December 27, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Untold Story by Genevieve CogmanThe Untold Story, Genevieve Cogman

Here we are, at the end of Irene’s story! At least for now. And what a finale it is, digging into the secrets of the Library, wrapping up questions that we’ve had all along, putting paid to enemies, seeing old friends, and answering some things that seemed like inconsistencies. I’ll try not to say too much, since it’s only been out for a few days, and instead keep my comments relatively spoiler-free, though you can expect to see me mention characters who are involved (or not) and stuff on that level.

Speaking of which, it feels a little odd to me that Lord Silver’s involvement is so very small. It makes sense in the context of the story — I didn’t question it at all — and he does have a part to play twice in the course of the story… but after we’ve been thrown together with him in book after book, his absence at a few key points rings oddly. Though, in the context, his presence wouldn’t make sense, so this is more of a meta-comment on my expectations.

Anyway, those who haven’t read the previous books in this series technically get some hints along the way of the history and how things work, but I really wouldn’t recommend starting here. It’s the eighth book of a series which has had a few recurring themes, a lot of recurring characters, and where a lot of detail has been sketched in to support the plot. There’s enough here to remind someone who hasn’t read the other books recently of what’s going on, but not enough for a total beginner. (I don’t understand why people start a series of this sort in the middle anyway, but seemingly they do.) You won’t care about the characters if you don’t know how they got here.

There are a few moments that caught me by surprise in how they were handled — notably Irene’s interactions with her birth parents. It felt very right for Irene, in fact, but I guess if I’d expected a misstep in how Irene’s relationships with those around her were handled, it would be here. But no, Cogman handled the moments well, balancing just enough curiosity and feeling with Irene’s affection and admiration for the people who raised her.

I was a bit nonplussed to find other reviews complaining that everything turns out perfectly at the end. It feels like they missed some of the losses along the way: sure, there are good things about the ending, but it’s not quite the status quo, either. I guess I too would’ve expected a more fundamental shift at the end… but I wouldn’t say that the ending is unalloyed joy, either.

And with that, I’ll leave others to find out for themselves…

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,


Review – The Dark Archive

Posted January 2, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Dark Archive by Genevieve CogmanThe Dark Archive, Genevieve Cogman

This most recent book in the Invisible Library series features Irene, Kai, Vale, Irene’s new apprentice (Catherine), and Kai’s brother. It’s a very Sparks Will Fly sort of arrangement, not least because Vale is pitted against an adversary, his criminal mirror. A mastermind. A Moriarty — or so it seems. I was a little disappointed that certain characters didn’t interact more (let’s not be coy, I wanted more of Kai and Vale working together), and it feels like the particularly mixture of characters didn’t really have time to mix up and cause mayhem before the book was suddenly over.

That’s partly because recurring themes get tugged on again, and characters that had left the narrative triumphantly returned… some of them more predictably so than others.

All in all, the book sped by at the usual pace, and I ended up pretty happy with the explanations for the way characters are being moved around the gameboard. One very predictable outcome comes in almost at the end of the book, and honestly, it shouldn’t have taken a genius detective to see it. At the same time, the epilogue gives us an intriguing glimpse at deeper machinations and stories yet to come…

Not a favourite in the series, I think, but one which moves the plot along — and is as always a very absorbing and swift read.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , ,


Review – The Secret Chapter

Posted December 20, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Secret Chapter by Genevieve CogmanThe Secret Chapter, Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman has given us a proper heist story! We’ve seen Irene stealing books before, of course; that’s kind of the point. But this book is a traditional heist story, expanding the idea of Fae having archetypes into modern stories about thieves and crime bosses, as well. It’s fun to see Irene with a whole crew, even though this book doesn’t feature Vale at all — and fun to see her and Kai able to work together again.

There’s obviously a bigger plot accumulating, as well, so that though there’s a sort of “monster of the week” feel to the various thefts and negotiations and investigations, slowly the pieces are coming together on other big questions. Alberich was but a bump in the road, seemingly; there’s something even bigger to worry about, between the revelations of this book, the truce promised in the previous book. It feels good that six books in, the individual stories are still engaging — total popcorn for my brain, anyway — and pacy, while an overarching story keeps building at its own pace.

I’m fascinated by Indigo and the position this book puts Kai in; I’m super curious about Irene’s promised new apprentice. I love the way Sterrington has come back into things, and hope to see more of her. And it looks like the next book should see more of Vale again, maybe even at the same time as Kai — a book that’s Kai, Vale and Irene against the world has my full attention.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,


Review – The Mortal Word

Posted December 12, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Mortal Word by Genevieve CogmanThe Mortal Word, Genevieve Cogman

I didn’t love The Burning Page or The Lost Plot as much as I hoped, somehow, and I partly wonder if I just got stalled partway through them, thought about things too much, and jammed up. No such problem with The Mortal Word: this series is like brain candy for me, and I had the time to just swallow it whole… so I did. In this book, Librarians are brokering a peace between Fae and Dragons, and things have been somewhat thrown into disarray by the murder of a trusted servant, a man who was working to make the whole deal come off. Irene is called in, along with Vale… and Kai manages to insinuate himself into things via the Dragon side.

There’s a little more of Kai, Vale and Irene working together in this book, which always helps — they’re an epic trio, and I said not entirely jokingly to someone else that I think they should just all three marry each other and get on with it. There’s also another little opening into the Dragon society in the form of Mu Dan, a judge investigator tasked to assist Irene and Vale from the Dragon side of proceedings. (The Fae tasked to join them is Silver, which also leads to some very fun bits.) But mostly, there’s more of Vale, who is probably my favourite.

I find these books a tiny bit predictable, though perhaps not as predictable as I feared they might be; in a way it comes with the territory, since Fae acting out their archetypes have the most power, and Dragons like order. They just fly by in a sometimes-tropey way that’s delightful to me. I’m glad I’m catching up with the series now!

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,


WWW Wednesday

Posted December 9, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Well, it’s been a minute since I did this. Oops.

Cover of The Mortal Word by Genevieve CogmanWhat are you currently reading?

I’m in the middle of The Mortal Word, by Genevieve Cogman; I was bemoaning the lack of Peregrine Vale in the previous book, and lo and behold, this one’s a murder mystery. Here’s hoping there’s plenty of Vale in this one (though I hope Kai isn’t as relegated to the sidelines as he appears to be here).

I’m also reading Murder Underground, by Mavis Doriel Hay. I can’t remember how I felt about Death on the Cherwell, but Murder Underground is doing okay — even if Basil is a silly ass who would do a lot better by not lying to the detectives!

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished up Meteorite: The Stones From Outer Space That Made Our World, by Tim Gregory. I love non-fiction books of all kinds where you can really feel that the writer loves their subject, and this is one of those. Cosmochemistry isn’t my thing at all, but Gregory’s so excited about it, it made me excited to read.

Cover of Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonWhat will you be reading next?

As usual, I’ve no idea. My wife’s thinking of reading Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston, so maybe I’ll buddy read that with her? Or I’ll get back to something on the Shelf of Abandoned Books… ahem.

What are you all reading?

Tags: , , , , ,


Review – The Lost Plot

Posted December 9, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve CogmanThe Lost Plot, Genevieve Cogman

I expected to steam through this on a reread, since these books are totally candy for my brain… but actually I stalled on it halfway through, again. I must conclude again that it’s mostly the lack of Vale — he barely appears in the story, and is barely relevant to the plot at all, which is largely in another world. It’s great that we get to see more of dragon society and Kai’s place within it, and we get some movement on Kai’s arc… and it’s also great to have a different setting for this book (Prohibition-era New York)…

But it really suffered for me without any sign of Vale. Which is greedy, probably; he’s important, yes, but he’s not part of the Library. He’s a human, albeit a convenient one, and tied to a specific world — it’s almost weird he’s managed to be such a big part of the plots so far!

I do still feel unsure about the ending. The will-they-won’t-they between both Kai and Irene and Kai and Vale always felt like a distraction; I was much more excited about the three of them working together in an intense friendship, balancing each other out. Irene and Kai as a couple don’t quite work for me without Vale, and yet he immediately becomes little more than a third wheel there. I’m hoping that feeling will be proved wrong by the next book!

In any case, it is still a lot of fun to run around after Kai and Irene, and to meet another Librarian and more dragons. The change in setting is fun, a reminder that it isn’t all steampunk worlds, and seeing Irene trusted by the Library with a difficult task is great after her shaky start in earlier books.

It’s just not my favourite.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , ,


WWW Wednesday

Posted September 23, 2020 by Nicky in General / 10 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of The Firebird by Susanna KearsleyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: I’ve gone back to Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird after a long time away. It’s not capturing me (or in this case recapturing me) as her other books usually do. I’d hoped it was just my mood, and coming back to it now would let me slip back into it… but apparently not. It might still be my mood, but it’s a bit disappointing.

Non-fiction: I’m back to The Story of Wales, by Jon Gower. I think that was a mood problem, because I’m digging into it more now… and getting angry about the historical treatment of the Welsh, of course. People forget, or never knew, that before English rule suppressed native languages on other contents, they started in Wales.

I’m also a good chunk of the way into How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. So far it’s talked a lot about the promise of psychedelics for treating depression, anxiety, stress in people with terminal illnesses, etc… but it hasn’t gone into the science much. It’s been more of a history, so far, along with an exploration of the user’s personal feelings and experience,

Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. SayersWhat have you recently finished reading?

I finally finished my reread of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. It’s not one of my favourite Wimsey novels, though there are definitely fun bits, so I bogged down in it a while ago. Which means Strong Poison is next! Yay!

Cover of X+Y by Eugenia ChengWhat will you be reading next?

I’m slowly working through my “shelf of abandoned books”, so the next up on that shelf look to Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind, by Colin Renfrew, Feed by Mira Grant, and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman. I’ll probably read a new-to-me book in tandem with trying to finish those; maybe Eugenia Cheng’s X+Y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender.

What are you reading? What’s got you enthusiastic at the moment? Let me know!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


WWW Wednesday

Posted September 16, 2020 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Digging Up Armageddon by Eric H. ClineFiction: I’m neck-deep in Kushiel’s Dart, and just finally getting to the bits which I always struggle to read because aaaaaahhhh nooooo. I forget how long it takes Joscelin to really start being amazing! I haven’t really been taking part in the readalong discussions, because my brain is just tired and I’m probably reading too much at once.

Speaking of which, I’m also reading The Fifth Season, and working on my shelf of abandoned books. I’m closing on finished with my reread of Nine Coaches Waiting, which is still fun but… I don’t know, the melodrama of this one doesn’t work for me as well as (say) Madam, Will You Talk? Perhaps it’s also because it’s longer.

Non-fiction: I’m finally back to reading Eric H. Cline’s Digging Up Armageddon, which I stalled on because I wasn’t in the right mood before. I’m enjoying the details of the digs and the team a bit more this time, and closing on the end… despite feeling that the team had so many questions left to answer. Gah.

What have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Beneath the World, A Sea, by Chris Beckett. It was… okay. I actually originally said it’d be something my wife was likely to love, but I think it floundered around a bit and then petered out, despite the original promise. It lacks any kind of resolution — I didn’t necessarily need an explanation, but something better than the sense the characters are running away.

Cover of The Lost Plot by Genevieve CogmanWhat will you be reading next?

I’m planning to work more on the shelf of abandoned books, but there’s still quite a bit of scope there. I could get back to my reread of The Lost Plot, by Genevieve Cogman, or of Feed by Mira Grant. Or I could finish a book that’s new to me, like Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird.

Probably I’ll pick two and chip away at them by setting myself a goal of reading a minimum of five pages a day. It seems to be the key to unlocking a book I’m struggling with — with all of them I’ve suddenly had a moment of getting back into it and finishing it all in one go.

So what’re you reading? 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Review – The Masked City

Posted April 7, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Masked City by Genevieve CogmanThe Masked City, Genevieve Cogman

The Masked City might be my favourite book of the bunch so far. It mostly features Irene, on her own, doing her thing. The motivations aren’t all about world-ending disaster or terrifying eldritch horrors, and at root it’s all about friendship and going to any lengths necessary for someone. Almost at the start, Kai is kidnapped by Fae and taken to a high chaos world that is inimical to his very nature, to be sold to the highest bidder. It will lead to a war between the Fae and Dragons, and it probably won’t end well for Kai, so Irene plunges in to save him.

It is a little annoying that every book relies more or less heavily on the repeated plot motif of Irene being cut off from the Library. In the first book, she’s chaos-infested; in this book, she’s too deep into chaos to reach the Library… It makes sense that she can’t always be popping back and forth to research things, but I feel frustrated by how little of the Library we see.

Nonetheless, this instalment has some very fun things, including the world-building about the natures of the Fae. Maybe it’s partly a fondness for the aesthetics of Venice that prompt my love of this particular book; Irene moves in a fantasy-Venice, in which the water doesn’t smell and there’s always a gondola going where you want to go. It’s deliberately charming, the very best of Venice; painted scenery against which the lives of the Fae (and this story) are hung. It really works as imagery and as a theme because Venice is treated like that in the real world, too.

There is a bit, I think in this book, where Vale tests Irene’s motivations a little, and that’s a really good scene (though sort of inconclusive), because Irene and all the Librarians feel a little shallow. They could do all sorts of good in the worlds, they have immense power to affect reality… and yet they’re only interested in books? I can understand a love of literature, but the Library feels hollow when you think about its alleged purpose: just to collect books. That’s it. Collect and preserve books. Not just unique knowledge — much of it isn’t applicable between worlds anyway — but obscure variants and unique copies of books that exist already in other worlds. It all feels a bit thin, and I worry at times that there isn’t anything behind that apparent central mission.

So yes, overall, probably my favourite, and probably the book that really made me enthusiastic about the series, too.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,