“I should infinitely prefer a book.”

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Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

 ‘Desperate affairs require desperate measures’ – a regency style cover

I had a couple of books in mind for this one but I’ve gone for Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library.  Not sure if this is a perfect representation but anyway!:

My favourite:

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Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover featuring a key

Future themes:

10th November 2017 – ‘zip it, lock it and throw away the key – a cover featuring a key

17th November 2017 – Snap! – a cover featuring a double image or reflection

24th November 2017 – ‘I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently’ – a cover featuring snow

1st December 2017 – The pen is mightier than the sword – a cover featuring a fancy font

8th December 2017 – ‘Do not go gentle’ – a cover featuring the night…

15th December 2017 – Hubble bubble toil and trouble – a cover featuring a portion/perfume bottle

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The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

25761086 (1)The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman is the second in series that got off to a great start with The Invisible Library.  I think that this book could probably be read as a standalone however I would personally recommend reading the first in series because it’s just so good.  I will forewarn you that whilst I will try to avoid spoilers for The Masked City the review may contain spoilers for the first book so please bear that in mind.

By way of context the Invisible Library is a library that exists in a different dimension.  From within there appear to be no boundaries and the library is a vast labyrinth that can take days if not weeks to traverse.  The role of the Librarians is to travel to alternate worlds and recover books that are about to disappear and then preserve those books for all time. Using an unusual form of magic the librarians are able to travel to alternate worlds by stepping through a portal within the library and coming out in a library ‘elsewhere’.  The number of possible alternate worlds is immense and each one is different in terms of magical ability or occupants.  In the first story we travelled to an alternate London where vampires, werewolves and fae lived amongst polite Victorian society and where steampunk inventions and clockwork animals ran amok.  We were introduced to one particular Librarian and her new apprentice.  Irene and Kai and we discovered that Kai was hiding the fact that he is actually a dragon.

At the start of The Masked City Irene and Kai are now stationed in the alternate London from their first adventure, Irene having been made Librarian in residence at the conclusion of the previous story.  Things seem to be almost normal, or as normal as can be expected in this particular version of London, until Kai is kidnapped and Irene and Vale (a famous detective of the era with Holmes-like abilities) try to uncover the mystery of who took him, why and more importantly where!

The one constant in all of these possible worlds is that the fae encompass chaos and the dragons represent order.  Therefore the two very rarely exist comfortably in the same universe and the more inhabited a world is by either one the less likely it is that the other will feel comfortable there.  Of course the dragons and the fae are natural enemies and therefore it’s no surprise that Kai has been abducted by one of the more prominent members of the fae and taken deep within their territory, an alternate Venice where Carnival never stops.  Kept in a secret (and even fae proof) prison Kae cannot exist in this world for long and Irene must rely on the very last person she would wish to – a member of the fae called Silver.  Both with different motivations for saving Kai, the clock is ticking and the race is on to try and prevent war.

So, let me count the ways in which I love this series.

Firstly, the settings.  Obviously we’ve already visited steampunk London and in this instalment we’re off to a Venice where Carnival never ends.  Okay, you might be thinking that these settings have been used before, many times in fact, but Cogman has a wonderful ability to inject them with something new.  With the first book we had Victorian Society and the rules that encompass it whilst at the same time the residents didn’t seem to bat an eyelid at fae soirees or swarms of book eating bugs, it just felt quirky.  With the second we travel to Venice by train – and what an unusual train journey it is!  And the setting of Venice seems to lend itself so well to the chaos induced world of the fae.  Anything goes here as the fae all try to live out their own individual stories placing themselves at the heart as the baddie or hero, femme fatale or other, maybe lesser character within the tale.  We travel on the canals at night with swirling fog that is perfect for hiding in and then we are startled by the intensely bright and vivid colours of a crisp morning spent on the Piazza San Marco.  An alternately creepy and colourful Venice. We also travel back to the Library where Irene goes to seek advice and in the face of receiving very little takes matters into her own hands.  She travels to Kai’s own world – which is such a stark contrast to the others that it yet again makes you realise how much scope there really is for this to become a really first class series.  Here, she puts her neck on the line and takes responsibility for anything that might happen to Kai.

Secondly, the magic.  I was constantly happily surprised by Irene’s librarian magic.  I love it.  It’s such a simple idea but so effective and quite deceptive in that although you think you have your head around the basics you’re more often than not proved wrong about exactly when and how Irene can best use the magic to help her.  On top of this we have the fae lore and magic with their glamours and compulsion and then of course the dragons with their barely concealed fiery temperaments and their ability to control the water and tides.

Thirdly, the characters are easy to get on with.  Irene comes across in one respect as quite naive but in spite of this she will take risks and she certainly isn’t a damsel in distress, in fact, time actually standing still within the confines of the library – I have no real idea of her true age.  Of course we spend less time with Kai in this particular story but into his place steps Silver and what a cunning and sly old so and so he is!  Strangely enough I find myself quite liking him.  Vale also takes a little more of a backseat in this one which I didn’t mind – not because I don’t like him but I guess I like that the author isn’t going down the route of making Irene too dependent on either one but relying on her own abilities as much as possible.

Basically, I just really enjoyed this.  It doesn’t suffer from second book syndrome which is always a pleasant relief.  The pace is quick.  My attention never wavered and in fact the whole experience is just downright good fun.  I found myself hooked to the pages and grinning more often than not.  I love a book with an obscene amount of imagination and this has an obscene amount.

A great concept, well executed, populated with just about everything and anything you can imagine.  I can’t wait for the next one.

I received a copy of this through the publishers via Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

This review first appeared on The Speculative Herald.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

21416690This is a series that I very nearly overlooked!  I’m so glad I didn’t.  This was a really good book and I enjoyed it so much that I picked up The Masked City immediately and I’m now loving that too!  Genevieve Cogman where have you been hiding?  Never mind, I’ve found you now and it’s all good.

Prepare for gushing.

The Invisible Library is a bibliophile’s dream come true – and that holds true in terms of both the book itself and the invisible library from within the pages.  Where should I start – just everything!  Okay, the library itself – it is a strange place that not just anybody can enter – only initiated librarians or apprentices.  It’s huge, think the tardis, from within it’s walls you can open a door to an infinite number of alternate worlds and any number of possibilities and, wait for it, when within the confines of the library, the librarians don’t age!  OMG – where is this library, I’ve packed my spotted hanky and I’m going.

The plot. Irene is a librarian.  The purpose of the librarians, in a nutshell, is to enter alternate universes and secure rare books and return them to the library so that they can be copied or preserved for all time.  Basically, Irene opens door to all sorts of worlds, steals in, steals the book (or buys it) and steals back out.  The entryways in and out are a little like the doors in Howl’s Moving Castle and are activated by a secret and magical language that the librarians use.  At the start of the story Irene is sent to an alternate London to retrieve a book, unfortunately, upon arrival it appears that the book is already missing.  Accompanied by a new apprentice called Kai the two now need to pick up the trail of the missing book.  Of course, their search is hampered by a number of others who also appear to be on the search and pretty soon there are secret societies, clockwork alligators, fae and much more dangerous foe seeking to throw obstacles in the way.

So, the setting.  The possibilities here are endless and I really hope that this means we have plenty more books to look forward to.  This is such a great, fun and easy read.  For this particular story we travel to Victorian London but here we find Vampires, Werewolves, fae and steampunk all combined.

In terms of characters.  I like Irene.  She’s intelligent and resourceful.  Don’t be misled by her seemingly young age (I think she comes across as about 17 or 18 although I’m not 100% sure) because in actual fact, given the dynamics of the library and the length of time that Irene has spent there she is in fact older than she looks.  Kai is her apprentice.  He has led something of a shady past before entering the library and on top of that he has other secrets that are revealed during the course of the book.  There is definitely chemistry between these two but it remains at that and the book isn’t focused on romance. We meet up with a brilliant detective of the time called Vale who becomes embroiled in the search.  We meet one of the fae, called Silver and then we become acquainted with a rogue librarian!

The writing is lovely, the world building really excellent, the pacing is consistent throughout and the plot is thoroughly entertaining.  Ms Cogman seems to have crammed a whole wealth of ideas in here and yet, very cleverly, she has still left herself with immense possibilities for future stories.  On top of that, she’s written a story that I think easily crosses over both the YA/Adult audience.  A great read, good fun and I’m hoping this will become a series – I would certainly enjoy learning more about these characters.  Oh, and I almost forgot – dragons.  That is all

In case you missed the main message.  I enjoyed this and would definitely recommend.  It’s not a deep thinking or serious book, it’s not grimdark but it is captivating and really good fun.