I came into the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman and was really favourably impressed with the first few books. The concept of an extra-dimensional library maintaining tenuous balance on alternate worlds affected by the order of the dragons and the chaos of the fae is chock full of potential, and it really delivers at the beginning. By the fourth book, I was viewing with regret the gradual writing-out of the story of my favourite character, an archetypal Sherlock Holmes character. And if I privately thought he should be a romantic match for the main character, self-named Irene as homage to a certain literary Irene also related to the famous Doyle stories, that’s beside the point. I have casually been reading this series two books at a time for a few years, and this fall I read books five and six.
The Mortal Word promised to feature Vale, the Sherlockian character, more highly in it and I was looking forward to seeing more of him after he had been mainly absent for the entirety of book four and there had been some (to me) unresolved developments. So, as the investigator hired to solve the assassination of a dragon during a critical and volatile treaty meeting between the dragons and the fae, I was expecting a lot from Vale and Irene. I was disappointed. Of course, Irene being the main character, the story had to follow her and her investigations primarily, but couldn’t she have spent a bit more time with Vale? Instead, Vale gets paired with Kai quite a bit, and they’re just off doing their own thing. And when there were some necessary shifts from Irene’s to their perspective, it wasn’t that compelling. I guess knowing a bit more about Kai’s thought process is important, mainly because from Irene’s perspective thusfar he’s just a really pretty boy who happens to be a dragon. And they’re in loooove. Anyway, this story, while it provided some interesting developments in fae-dragon relations, was written like a whodunit, and for some reason, I found it very slow and episodically predictable. The one little bone I got was the confirmation of what had been hinted at before: Vale is part fae, which explains how he’s managed to carve out a persona as a “great detective” in his world. Cool, I grant you. But then this little tidbit is never given any significance to the plot, when the fact that the detective in charge of finding the assassin of a dragon is part fae would be a huge conflict of interest that could potentially reignite hostility between the two opposing magical races. Oh well. I hoped the next one would be better.
The Secret Chapter is essentially a heist story. I’m getting the feeling that these books are just running through genres and stereotypical plots after such a unique first few books. Vale doesn’t even appear in this one, and I think I have to resign myself to the fact that they are done with Vale as a significant character and mourn his passing from the pages. Irene and Kai are tasked with finding a book to return balance to a world that is in danger of being overtaken by fae chaos—but an unaffiliated fae criminal mastermind called Nemo is the one who happens to be in possession of it. In order to get the book, they have to agree to join a specialized team he’s put together of criminal fae and dragons to steal a painting on another world. Of course shenanigans ensue, and the tenuous alliance between the fae and the dragons is threatened by the cultural importance of the painting. Over all, I enjoyed this story better than I had the last one, with its addition of more characters and the murky navigation of Library-Dragon-Fae relations. We also got a bit more character development from Kai which, six books in, was long overdue but still not enough to make me a hundred percent sure why Irene loves him or even what about their respective personalities made me ever think they were compatible. Bring back Vale, please.
The plots are taking a different turn, having to contrive some alternate means of conflict now that uber-villain Alberich has been out of the picture for a while (I still think he might come back… Irene’s real parents, anyone?), and I think they’re setting up some grander, large-scale origin story type stuff for the dragons, and possibly the fae as well. I’ll probably continue reading this series, as the books are light, very cool conceptually, and full of adventure, but it’s not as if I’m dying to get into the next books just yet.