By Genevieve Cogman
Well this is embarrassing! I read this book on the plane a few months back and completely forgot to review it, even though I loved it. So I reread it yesterday to give it the attention it deserves, right before I read the third book and share it with you. Oops!
Librarian Spies. Alternate realities. Dragons, Fae, and high technology. Heck yes, I absolutely love the universe Cogman has created in the Invisible Library series. We reviewed the first one not too long ago and I admit, I could not shut up about it (and still can’t!). So, needless to say, I was excited to return to it as fast as I could. She did not disappoint: The Masked City – a direct sequel to The Invisible Library – was fun and exciting, a fast read I could not put down.
Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.
Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.
Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.
We return to the beloved characters of Irene and Kai, as they continue their work in the slightly Chaotic London. Irene, as Librarian in residence, has a lot of responsibility, but has begun making friends, and continues to train Kai as her apprentice, keeping his Dragon heritage a secret. I was afraid we would be ‘stuck’ in this universe, since Irene was assigned to it, and wondered how the author could make it exciting, but trust me, we do not stay there long. That London has already told its story, and we’re going on a thrill ride threw new and exciting alternates, ramping up the excitement from the last book.
Kai’s been kidnapped, and it’s up to Irene to find him before the Dragons declare war on the chaotic worlds, or the Fae declare war on the dragons – whichever comes first. With the balance of the universe at stake, Irene has very little time, and very little help. While she continues with the support of both Kai’s uncle, Ao Shun, a powerful noble dragon, and of the library, she’s still alone and running head first into a chaotic universe. There’s going to be danger.
It’s so evident this novel was written by a book lover. While in the first novel we were introduced to the Library, an institution that collects and stores the most important works across all alternate universes, the sequel delves into the world of Fae, who feed off the drama they create amongst humans. Their lives revolve around story: how exciting is theirs? Irene is dragged in and out of the stories of so many Fae, making it near impossible to save Kai, though exciting to say the least. The care and importance Cogman gives to the love of Narrative really shows in her own work as well as the lives of the characters she creates. It’s a clever way of putting stories within stories.
And I just adore the locations. The Venice Irene visits is a perfect version of the place, like the stories you hear from friends: it’s always carnival, everyone’s in beautiful masks and riding gondolas around the city from expensive palace to cozy taverns. The High tech home of Kai, and the sudden trip to Marseille (mah home!) made me giddy and excited. And the Train… oh my gosh, the Train deserves its own book.
One thing I still don’t really like (same as in the first book) is just how much talk there is. Just in the sense that Irene has to talk out all of her ideas with others, going through every possible question and answering them. “Why did you do this?” “Why wouldn’t you do that?” etc gets tedious, and you wonder why she won’t just get on with it. As a reader, I can determine a lot for myself, and sometimes, it’s just better to move on. It’s just a stylistic choice I don’t really like, but it doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable.
But gosh, this is a fun series. The ending is a sharp cliffhanger and I’m so excited to read the next one ASAP. I love this universe, and I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about it!