Another excellent installment in this remarkable trilogy – that I now understand is going to move beyond three books! If you haven’t started the series yet you simply MUST. I”ll give a quick recap of why the first two books are worth picking up before you dive into this, the third:
THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY
There’s nothing I love more than a book about books, and a book about books AND secret libraries AND books that change/save/destroy the world(s) AND time-travel is simply too fabulous for description. The writing is great, the story moves at an excellent pace, the characters and world(s) building exquisite…
THE MASKED CITYHooray – it’s almost as good as the first in the trilogy! I say hooray and sound surprised because, in my experience, the middle books in trilogies are often necessary evils – they need to say what they do to set up the finale, but are often not the best stories to read by themselves… This one has some moments that clearly feel like setup – the pacing slows, the exposition grows, paragraphs feel just that little bit out of flow – but on the whole it also still reads like a really good story.
Here’s a taste of the writing in this one. I just love the straightforward, no-nonsense personality of Irene – this scene sees her facing off against one of the villains of the piece. This burst of villainous loquaciousness is a prime example of Cogman’s magnificent use of language and spot-on ability to nail the human condition: “People want stories. You should know that more than anybody. They want their lives to have meaning. They want to be part of something greater than themselves… Most people don’t want a brave new world. They want the story that they know.”
And finally: THE BURNING PAGE
Admittedly, this one was the most difficult for me of the three – I suspect because I read every page waiting to see what was on the next one… This happens to me with the “last” book in a series a lot – I am so invested in the characters and story that I can’t read the book for the simple pleasure of its writing/story, but am reading to satisfy my craving for the world and characters that it encapsulates. This necessarily, I think, makes the reading process a different one than when one reads a first or stand-alone book, because of the build-up and expectations and overwhelming desire to know What Happens Next…
Still, there are thrills aplenty here, and the continuing saga of the Library’s battle against the evil traitor Alberich is well-plotted and -paced once again… I really enjoy the increasing role of Kai and his people (I don’t want to inadvertently give any spoilers for the early books) in the series, as well as the increased intrigue among and between the Librarians (both those already introduced and the handful of new mentions in this book). Irene is a marvelous character – sassy, resourceful, human, and utterly likeable even when she is forced into horrible corners. I cannot wait to see where the series goes next – there are a few newly opened doors in this one that should lend themselves to a marvelous set of new adventures and developments!
Once again, there are beautiful truths planted throughout the story; little nuggets of wisdom that often seem to come out of the mouths of the Librarians (no surprise that, in my experience librarians as a class DO tend toward the remarkable end of the insight spectrum!). The characters are thoroughly well-rounded individuals, and this latest book provides an opportunity for several to finally explain their motivations in a way that is ultimately satisfying and disconcerting in equal measure – largely because those explanations reveal the complexity of motivation that underlies pretty much everything (in fiction as in life). The explications of said complexities are beautifully and delicately presented, as they have been in each book, and underpin again the tremendous talent of this author.
Here are a few samples to whet your appetite:
— “Is this really the time to–” Irene started angrily. “Yes,” Coppelia snapped. “Yes, it is and it always will be. You use the Language, child. You have to be absolutely precise or you will get hurt.”
— “Getting killed was incredibly easy. Anyone could do it. Staying safe and alive was much harder”
— “The only problem is that it’s difficult to imagine something entirely new. We use the words and definitions of the past to shape our ideas. Something that is genuinely the next evolutionary step is unlikely to resemble anything we can imagine.”
— “‘People do keep on talking about wanting a war so that their side will win. But ultimately all they really want is for their side to be a bit better off. Nobody wishes for their side to triumph completely.’ She paused, considering that statement, and clarified it. ‘Nobody sane, that is.'”
I really can’t say enough good things about this set of books. If you haven’t started the series, you really should!
My review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.