Librarian spy Irene returns in Genevieve Cogman’s The Masked City, a follow-up to her debut novel The Invisible Library.
Irene is a servant of the Library – a place that exists outside of usual space and time. In this world Librarians are a fabulous hybrid of academics and secret agents; they track down books from alternate realities to stabilise these worlds and prevent them from swinging too far towards chaos. In theory, the Library is neutral but conflict is brewing between two rival factions: the dragons and the fae.
Since we last saw her, Irene has become Librarian-in-Residence to the alternate Victorian London. With detective Vale and her assistant Kai as allies, she’s generally making this whole spy malarkey look good. That is, until Kai is kidnapped.
Part spy mystery, part steampunk fantasy, The Masked City is a joy to read and Cogman makes it look effortless. She knows her characters, understands how to pace the action and the world she has built is intricate and compelling.
Lovers of literature will adore this universe, where Librarians have their own kind of magic and do favours for rare first editions of Voltaire. The characters are just so right: Irene knows how to handle herself in a scrape but she’s also always wishes she had a notepad on her to jot down new findings for posterity.
Like her protagonist, Cogman is more confident. There’s a boldness to where she’s steering Irene: both are taking risks and it’s paying off.
The Masked City is an adventurous, fun and exhilarating read that will leave you immediately wanting the next instalment. Cogman has threatened to make ‘at least three’ of these books. Two books down, we can only hope she wouldn’t be so cruel. You simply can’t get more fun than this.