The Invisible Library starts out with aplomb. Irene, our protagonist, is an Undercover Librarian. That’s it, I’m already sold on this book. She’s on a secret mission to retrieve a rare and unique book from the library of a wizards’ boarding school. Seriously, if you aren’t immediately putting this book in your shopping basket after that sentence, there is something wrong with you. Her heist - yes, a full-blown heist with booby-traps and tight timings and a great big chase and a narrow escape - is fast, thrilling, witty, and only the first chapter.
After returning to the Invisible Library (a mysterious, huge, timeless entity, existing between dimensions and parallel worlds; a library where people can travel for days among the bookshelves to get from one area to another, set inside an even more mysterious city that the Librarians never enter, occasionally glimpse from their windows, and know nothing about), Irene suddenly finds herself given a new, urgent assignment in different universe, and her first ever apprentice. Oh, and she actually has a personal nemesis among her Librarian colleagues.
The Invisible Library is great fun to read. A brisk pace, a sense of humour, and a likeable protagonist make this a near-perfect novel for grown-ups whose inner kids (and inner young adults) are alive and well and thirsting for tales of adventure.
I’ve seen it compared to Doctor Who, I’m sure it’ll be compared to Harry Potter, and it’ll probably get compared to every Anglophile novel full of vim and fun that’s ever been written. These comparisons will all be well-earned: it’s a highly pleasurable read. Big adventures, clever detectives, magic, fey folk, cyborgs, dragons, zeppelins, secrets, conspiracies... and best of all, it has unlimited potential for future novels.
Let’s put it like this: if you like Paul Magrs’ Brenda and Effie series, or Indiana Jones, or Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novels, or Inkheart, then I think it’s a fairly safe bet that The Invisible Library will be right up your street, too.