Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

August 25, 2016 Book review 7 ★★½

Do you want a job collecting books from around the world, and from alternate worlds? My first reaction is where do I sign up.  Until I learnt that I would have to rip them from the hands of vampires, and fight fae to acquire them. I’m not so keen now! That’s the theme of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman and it’s a theme that will have bibliophile’s bookish hearts beating that little bit faster.

Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve CogmanThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Published by Tor UK on January 15th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 329
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies - think Doctor Who with librarian spies!
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.

CREATIVE Fail Fantasy Paranormal

First Line of The Invisible Library by 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.”


My Thoughts on The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman:

Firstly I think a lot of people will absolutely love this book. If you enjoy steampunk (i.e. Victorian science fiction), then this could be a wonderful read for you. I read this book as it was my book club choice for August, but it’s well outside my reading comfort zone.

Which is a good thing. Reading the same type of book over and over again gets boring, so I enjoy spicing up my reads with some unexpected choices. In this case, I felt a bit underwhelmed by the book though.

The Library of Dreams

On the surface, it looks like a book that I would love. A library exists in an alternate world, and Irene works for the library. She jumps around different worlds on missions to gather rare books. There are multiple different alternate worlds, so for example there are different London’s, and in each one the books vary slightly.

Irene’s mission this time is to seek and retrieve a Grimm manuscript in London.  This mission leads to adventure after adventure while there.

Hampered by convoluted worldbuilding

The pace moved quickly, and the action was fast and furious. Unfortunately, the world building complicates unnecessarily, and buried me in a fog of detail.  The information overload confused me, and hindered my enjoyment, and I admit it, I skimmed at times.  However the characters won me back.  Clever and dry-witted, Irene and various people she encountered along her quest, entertained and amused me.

Enter Sherlock Holmes

In particular, I appreciated Vale, a London detective who assisted Irene on her hunt. Vale depicts a Sherlock Holmes type character with keen powers of observation and a detached personality. Library agents choose their own name, and while we don’t know why Irene choose Irene, I had a theory. We are informed that she loves mystery books, and so the character Irene Adler from the Sherlock Holmes stories kept jumping into my head.

BUT I wanted more character development

The characters, while interesting, weren’t developed enough for my tastes though. The plot driven story hinders the character development. I also didn’t care about the technology, and tended to skip over those sections. Which probably proves that steampunk books will never top my reading lists.

Final thought

Overall The Invisible Library missed the mark for me. I think the concept is very cool, but the execution of the story failed to draw me in.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: two-half-stars


Who should read The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman?

I’d recommend this to you if you like Fantasy books with steampunk elements and elaborate world building.



Never miss a bookish post! Plus you get a free download - Note to Book - to document your own bookish thoughts.

Signup now and receive blog posts by email.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

7 Responses to “Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman”

    • trish

      I think I’m in the minority on this one Shaina, as lots of people do love it. I thought everything sounded great but it just never all pulled together for me.

  1. Greg

    Sorry to hear this one didn’t work. I liked it but I could use more character development too- especially of Kai. I didn’t feel like I really got to know him- or Vale too, for that matter. I’m assuming (hoping) there will be more in the next book. And I’d like to know more about the Library too. There is an awful lot going on in this book, which is a frequent complaint I’ve seen.

    Steampunk is hit or miss for me so I’m ambivalent on that one, although I do like the atmosphere of a gaslit Victorian London. Nice balanced review!
    Greg recently posted…Time Siege

    • trish

      I really liked the characters Greg, so I wanted a lot more character development and was disappointed not to get it. And I fall for Victorian settings every time too!

    • trish

      I think lots of people LOVE it, so I’m definitely in the minority with my opinion on this one. I really hope you do end up loving it.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.