The Masked City – Genevieve Cogman

“The London air was full of smog and filth.”

I really loved the imagination in the first book of this series, The Invisible Library, even though I didn’t quite think the elements of the story quite lived up to high expectations. Still, it was more than enough to make me grab for the second installment!

Following on from the adventures of the previous novel, Irene now finds herself Librarian in Residence of that same world, and is settling well enough into her undercover role. However, when her apprentice, Kai, is kidnapped, the peculiarities of his heritage make the whole situation not just dangerous, but possible catastrophic for the whole world.

Forced to treat with both Dragons – keepers of order – and Fae – epitomes of chaos, Irene is transported by a train which may well be part of the Wild Hunt to a version of Venice forever at carnival. It’s not just the party masks on show, but the more subtle kind worn by all the players, as they try to hide their real games. Isolated in enemy territory, Irene must find and rescue Kai – but at what sacrifice?

I’m pleased to say that I think The Masked City manages to avoid most of the flaws of the first novel. That wasn’t the author’s first work, but this definitely reads like a more mature and polished effort, from a stronger plot to less cliched characters. Indeed, I really liked Irene here, after finding her a little too perfect in the first outing. Perhaps my only complaint here is the magic being a little too easily used – despite several scenes protesting otherwise – to solve every problem as they rack up at the end. Still, the adventure levels remain high throughout, and it’s lovely to have the heroine rescuing the prince, for a change 😉

Thoroughly looking forward to The Burning Page, due December 2016, and thrilled to see another 2 books planned afterwards (according to GoodReads).

Kindle: 357 pages / 27 chapters
First published: 2015
Series: The Invisible Library book 2
Read from 30th September – 8th October 2016

My rating: 8/10

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The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman

Irene passed the mop across the stone floor in smooth, careful strokes, idly admiring the gleam of wet flagstones in the lantern-light.

A rather bland opening line for a book otherwise crammed full of amazing things! Steampunk alligators, airships, vampires, and of course the Library that collects books from alternate realities…!

I absolutely adored the idea here: the library that sits between all manner of worlds, interested only in books. The librarians are practically immortal – when they’re in the library – but are sent out to collect rarities and oddities from the different ‘alternates’.

Our lead character, Irene, is perhaps just a little too much of a wish-fulfillment creation, sort of blessed head girl perfect-ish. She’s sent on a mission to collect a unique copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and saddled with a new apprentice – the drop-dead gorgeous, amazing, etc etc Kai. Hmm. Then the world they’ve been sent to turns out to be populated by master detectives, vampires, agents of chaos, and Irene’s worst enemy…!

I wanted to love this book more than I did. It has such great concepts, but throwing them all together gets a little messy and misses out on spending more time with the intriguing aspects: the possible other realities to travel between, dragons, all those hints about backstory, and, of course, the library itself. For a place of such wonder, it comes across rather poorly by the end, which is a total shame.

Still, a mostly fun and easy read, and I’m glad I read it for the imagination-prodding.

Right now, she wanted nothing more than to shut the rest of the world out, and have nothing to worry about, except the next page of whatever she was reading.

Kindle: 337 pages, 23 chapters
First published: 2015
Read from 4th-12th August 2015

My rating: 6/10 – glorious, inspiring idea, just not quite hitting the mark all the way through