This book caught my eye due to many things, but mostly that title, let’s be honest. An invisible library?? And then the descriptions promised librarians hunting down books across universes and I was SO SOLD.
When I started reading the book, though, I was torn. It starts off strong, with a Librarian hunting down a sneaky book in a magician’s boarding school and then returning to the Library to find yet more weirdness afoot. But then that weirdness leads to a posting in a quasi-steampunk-Victorian universe and I was like, well, at least that first part was good while it lasted.
I probably would have given up the book then, but I was off at a conference and not only was it the only print book I’d brought with me, but my hotel roommate was so excited that I was reading it that I figured I’d at least get far enough to give her a recommendation. And then I read the whole thing.
The Victorian-ness was still pretty meh, but once the book gets past building that setting it’s mostly all whiz-bang magic and sorcery and intrigue and subterfuge, so it’s A-OK in my book.
Aside from that setting, there’s also the setting of the Library itself, which exists between worlds and universes and collects books from all of them ostensibly to have a collection of ALL THE BOOKS and also to bring these universes closer together and to the Library and bring stability to the multiverse or whatever. This is much more interesting but very little explained, but I’m guessing that’ll change in future books (yay series!).
The actual story is about a Librarian named Irene who, after escaping that Hogwarts analogue, finds herself tasked with taking a relatively new recruit, Kai, into his first field assignment to recover a book of Grimm’s fairy tales. Said field assignment is in a place where magic and science coexist, but not peacefully, and Irene and Kai soon figure out that they are not the only weird powered creatures seeking the same book. Even worse, one of those people may be a mysterious, mythical turn-coat Librarian whose very name scares the pants off of most Librarians.
It’s a pretty standard story, but this is one of those books that recognizes that it’s got a pretty standard story, and in fact plays not only with the tropes of fantasy stories but with the conventions of literature in general, using them to help shape the story. It works fairly well, too, and even when it doesn’t quite work I’m always apt to find it entertaining.
All in all I ended up quite enjoying myself with this book, and I will probably seek out its sequel when that’s published here in the US later this year (darn you, UK originals!).
Recommendation: If you like magic and fairy tales and libraries and have a healthy appreciation of librarian stereotypes, you should probably seek this out.