If you ask a librarian why they do what they do, you’ll hear variations. We love books. We love reading. We love putting books in peoples’ hands. We love learning. But I suppose that, if I were forced to think very hard about why I think being a librarian is so important, I would give all these answers plus an answer similar to the one the protagonist of Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library gives: we want to make sure that stories and information are never lost. Irene is a librarian for the titular library. Her mission is to travel the multiverse and retrieve books, to preserve them and make sure that a copy always exists. This sounds simple enough, but Irene must also contend with the forces of chaos, a rogue librarian, a dangerously headstrong student, killer alligators, elves, and werewolves in order to to her job.
We meet Irene just as she is retrieving a book written by a necromancer from a magical school in an alternate version of Victorian England. As soon as she returns to the Invisible Library, she barely has a chance to catch her breath before her supervisor sends her out into yet another version of England to track down a rare copy of Grimm’s fairy tales. Oh, and she has to take a new student with her on his first trip outside the library since he was recruited.
After that, The Invisible Library is a roller coaster of action and madcap excitement. Irene and the other characters are not stingy with information, so there’s plenty of exposition to help readers understand Cogman’s bibio-multiverse. This isn’t to say we know what’s going to happen. There plot’s tension comes from trying to figure out how Irene will get the book back to the library against so many enemies, even with the help of her stubborn student and the world’s greatest detective.
The Invisible Library rang so many of my bells. Librarians? Check. Multiverse? Check. Heroines who get exasperated at the pigheaded male characters before just handling things herself? Double check. This book is also the kind of light-hearted adventure I needed after slogging through What is Not Yours is Not Yours and hurtling through Cold Sassy Tree earlier this week.