Cover of The Invisible Library, featuring the title in gold on a dark blue background bordered by ornate gold flourishes

About the Book

Title: The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)
Published: 2016

Cover Story: Old Timey
BFF Charm: Single White Female
Talky Talk: Historical (For The Most Part)
Bonus Factors: Alternate Universes, Literary References
Factor: Series Starter
Relationship Status: Take Me With You

Cover Story: Old Timey

This cover is appropriately simple and leather-looking, with just the right amount of ornamental flourish, for a book about a library.

The Deal:

Irene loves books, and so has dedicated her life—her very, very long life—to service of the Library, a mysterious place that exists out of time in the space between alternate universes and is committed to the preservation of unique literature from every world. Thanks to the Library’s magic, Irene gets to travel to a myriad of alternate worlds in search of special books and will do so for centuries (or more). She’s visited worlds that are much like our own, and some that are as different as the most fantastical of novels. She occasionally runs into trouble, but most often it’s as easy as buying a copy and returning to the Library.

Her latest assignment, to seek out a special set of Grimm’s fairy tales, takes her to a world in which vampires and werewolves are real, and the Ambassador from Lichtenstein is a Fae. It isn’t the most normal mission from the start, but Irene soon realizes that this might be her most important one yet.

BFF Charm: Single White Female

BFF Charm with an image of the main character from the movie Single White Female

Irene and I both share a love of books (obvs.), and having a job that took me to alternate universes—full of amazing and otherwise unfathomable sights and experiences—in search of the rarest of literature would be an absolute dream. I don’t love the idea of not really having loved ones (the strange way the Library treats time causes problems with keeping in touch with friends/family on various worlds), but everyone’s gotta make sacrifices sometimes.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

When she sets out on her Grimm mission (heh), she’s entrusted with the training of Kai, a librarian trainee. Upon first meeting him, Irene thinks:

He had the sort of beauty that instantly shifted him from a possible romance object to an absolute impossibility. Nobody got to spend time with people who looked like that outside the front pages of newspapers and glossy magazines. … his hair was a shade of black that looked almost steely blue in the dim lights … His eyebrows were the same shade, like lines of ink on his face, and his cheekbones would have been used to cut diamonds, let alone cheese.

Irene is obviously physically attracted to Kai, but the fact that she’s his superior and the assignment is super important takes priority.

This is the first in a series, however. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Talky Talk: Historical (For The Most Part)

Although much of The Invisible Library takes place in an alternate universe in which magic is familiar, paranormal creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and Fae coexist with humans, and technology is quite steampunky, Irene wishes more alternate worlds had mobile phones, and, in the Library, uses email on a computer. She’s obviously a modern woman, but also fits in nicely in mid-1800s London. It might seem like too many disparate parts, but in the book, Genevieve Cogman has brought a lot of ideas together to form a cohesive whole. Her worldbuilding is excellent, and I certainly spent much of the book wishing it were real life.

Side note: I see this categorized as both YA and Adult, and it has definite crossover appeal. There wasn’t anything particularly “adult” about the book, but I think the main characters—especially given the whole timey-wimey business of aging in the Library—are actual adults, so …

Bonus Factor: Alternate Universes

The evil Mirror Universe versions of Spock and Kirk from Star Trek glare at the camera

I love the idea that there are an infinite amount of universes—some very like ours and some extraordinarily different—and that visiting them is as easy (in the case of The Invisible Library) as stepping through a door. It would be both mind-boggling and amazing to be able to visit such places.

Bonus Factor: Literary References

A book floats in the middle of a window made of books in a room filled floor-to-ceiling with books

After they’re initiated into full Library service, each librarian takes on a new moniker. Irene, for example, is not Irene’s real name; instead, it’s a name she chose for herself thanks to her love of certain detective novels. (If you, too, are a fan, I’m sure you’ll recognize the reference.) Other names are more obscure—at least they were to me, and I was an English major*—and might require some Googling, if you’re so inclined. It definitely got me thinking about what I might call myself were I in her shoes, which is actually really fun to ponder.

*One who studied more contemporary lit … eleven years ago … but whatever.

Factor: Series Starter

Stack of YA book series

The Invisible Library is the first in a trilogy (I think), but the first two books are already out in the UK. The second book is scheduled to release in the US this September, and the third (at least according to Goodreads) will be available both in the UK and US in December. This truncated release schedule is great for those of us who dread having to wait a year or more for the next in a series to be available. 

I tend to lean more toward Bonus than Anti-Bonus for this book (particularly because I will be very glad to visit the world again), but I know series can be the bane of some people’s (reading) existences.

Relationship Status: Take Me With You

I totally judged you by your cover, Book, and found myself thinking that if you were about someone who loved libraries and books, that we’d definitely get along. I’m super glad to know that I was right. But now that I know you on a deeper, more personal level, I don’t think I’m going to be content with only hearing about your stories. I want to be a part of them! I’m totally cool under pressure and good at keeping secrets. Take me along next time, won’t you?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Roc. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. The Invisible Library is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.