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The Invisible Library presents an intriguing fantasy concept: Here's this ginormous library, made up of books that have been filched from thousands of other dimensions by a team of ageless, sneaky librarians. We follow one such book thief on a mission to track down a much desired book in a chaotic, steampunk world.
Unfortunately the concept is the only positive thing I can find in this story, which reads a lot like a second draft of a NaNoWriMo project. The book is written in a perplexing, clumsy style crammed full of needless exposition. In one chapter we have this line: "she was so going to have Bradamant's ass for this. Metaphorically speaking". So lacking in confidence with her readers, the author Genevieve Cogman felt the need to put that clarification in there, in case we might take the narrator literally and think the protagonist collects asses. It might have been an attempt at a joke (the jokes in this do all fall flat), however elsewhere the book is full of such redundant explanations. In any case where a character says something with irony or subtext, the narrator will chime in and explain what exactly the hidden meaning is, in case we might miss it. We are never left to figure this shit out for ourselves.
It goes beyond the immediate dialogue too. In the story telling, the hero speculates whether her new partner is more than he appears, listing off a few potential magical beings. Rather than risk it be a looming mystery, we find out in the next couple of chapters that the hero is exactly one of those she listed. Thus we are spared what should be a shocking character revelation with a shoddy set up that spoils any surprise. Similarly, the book tells you enough about the library to make it boring, but not enough to answer a lot of basic questions, like why the whole library isn't horribly illegal and hated by the rest of the universe, and why the library takes days to traverse on foot but has no transport system inside. Eventually a character does stop the protagonist to ask about the ethics of stealing books from other cultures, and this could have been a clever moment to reveal the library works on some ugly, colonialist, British Museum mentality that has gone unchecked by the hero. But the hero brushes off the criticism by saying she still cares about people, and she hasn't done anything illegal (which is frankly bullshit by this point: she's committed breaking and entering, fraud and attempted theft).
Finally, the setting isn't much to write about. The book presents a kitchen sink fantasy, complete with vampires, wolves, Sherlock Holmes expies and fairies which all act in the exact same way you'd expect. I've seen this loads of times already in Fable, Once Upon a Time, Penny Dreadful, Grimm, True Blood, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'' and various 1940s B-movies. It isn't clever anymore. That one new idea about the library is actually the least visited thing in the book.
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