“Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.
London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.
Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…”
My Thoughts: The Invisible Library is reminiscent of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. No, there are no literary puns in the form of character names or books that become reality. There is a heavy focus on the love of books and a tendency towards the preposterous. In addition, Irene is just as clever and formidable as Thursday, and that will remind readers of Fforde’s novels. Considering how popular his novels are, this is a good thing.
I mention the preposterous, and that is exactly what The Invisible Library delivers. It is a story in which readers are not entirely certain of the rules dictated by society. The Library remains a mystery, seemingly oblivious to laws of physics. The idea of different realities is only partially explored. The one reality we do get to see is unpredictable, with magic and werewolves, vampires and dragons and other fantasy elements considered completely normal within that society. This could all be extremely off-putting, given the considerable lack of answers and growing list of questions, but because the story is so darn entertaining, one doesn’t mind in the least.
Irene is hilarious. She is spunky and creative. She is also about as clueless as the reader, which enhances the fun as she struggles to complete her mission. She learns at the same time the reader does; subsequently, her adventures become the reader’s. Her battles against the Library’s greatest foe are impressive and hint at greater things to come. Her own version of a Scooby gang is equally entertaining, with secrets of their own that add another layer of intrigue and excitement. The cast of characters is a bit large and can be confusing, but somehow the chaos increases the entertainment value.
The Invisible Library is exactly what you would expect in a novel about spies who steal books from alternate realities – crazy, confusing, and a ton of fun. There is not much in the way of world-building as the focus of the novel appears to be Irene and Kai and their adventures through this version of London. Considering the next book in the series is slated for release in three months, the lack of world-building feels deliberate, with the short time between releases all part of the story’s appeal. The story itself is not one that is going to become part of pop culture, but it is definitely geared toward a specific type of reader. Within that particular readership, it will be very popular indeed as it contains the requisite quirkiness and a plethora of unanswered questions which fans can debate among themselves for hours. Irene and Kai are adorable in their awkwardness – think geeky bookworms as spies – and entirely endearing in their unabashed love of stories and learning. It may be light on gravitas but as a entertaining novel that celebrates the bookish, The Invisible Library is a great summer read.