Irene is a Librarian, sworn to maintain the balance between order and chaos by carefully observing and, when necessary, stealing works of literature and history. Her Library stands apart from a vast array of alternate universes, and Irene travels between them to find and protect game-changing works of literature. She is (mostly) content with her typical daily duties of infiltrating the private libraries of brutal feudal lords and reading books so extraordinary, most mortals would never know they’d ever existed.
So when she is called to investigate a murder that could threaten that balance, Irene must apply her ingenuity and adaptability to preserve the most delicate of peaces and protect her Library while uncovering the truth. And if she and her friends and fellow investigators happen to stumble across a conspiracy or two along the way, they can only hope that any of the lawful and regimented dragons, chaotic Fae raconteurs, or suspicious and secretive senior Librarians will believe them.
Genevieve Cogman’s prose in The Mortal Word is characteristically light and witty, and filled with the kind of unexpected literary references one would expect from a book about magical librarians. Even more impressive, however, is Cogman’s ability to craft compelling standalone novels, while still using the developing relationships among her characters to tie the entire Invisible Library series together. Her series is reminiscent of the better, longest-running television serials, and the murder mystery aspect of The Mortal Word lends it the air of an unusually comedic episode of “Law and Order.”
The Library itself, and its relationship to humanity, is itself a fascinating take on an established literary tradition. Borges wrote of a Library of Babel, in which all possible writing was catalogued in an infinite and barely-navigable maze, but Cogman’s Librarians have more in common with Connie Willis’ time-traveling historians. They are not merely collectors, but have an explicit purpose in their behavior, and must be cautious when their activities in some world or historical era have unintended consequences. Cogman’s version of reality stands apart from its peers as one of the few versions of reality where, if the narrative lines up just right, anybody can be a knight in shining armor, a poem can bring down a dragon and a kiss really can bring back the dead.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Genevieve Cogman about The Mortal Word.