Irene is working undercover in an alternative Victorian London. for this librarian spy, it’s business as usual – until her assistant Kai is abducted. Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful enemies, and this act of aggression could trigger a war between his people and their greatest rivals. As they each represent the forces of order and chaos themselves, matters could turn unpleasant.
Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or she’ll face mayhem – at the very least.
Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, the first book in the series with the same title, couldn’t have been a book better suited to my tastes if the author had asked me what I wanted in my book. Alternate magical London, secret librarian spies, a witty and kickass heroine and a lovely assistant. That book had it all. And as such it was a tough act to follow. The Masked City had a lot to live up to and I certainly had some things I really wanted to see in there, not least more on Kai’s dragon heritage, but also more about Irene parentage. So did the book deliver what I was hoping for? Not exactly, but it delivered so much other awesomeness that it didn’t matter that I still don’t know more about Irene’s parents. The Masked City is a fantastic sequel to The Invisible Library.
While we didn’t meet Irene’s parents, we certainly learned more about the dragons and their realm. I really loved how Cogman portrays the dragons as highly modern, almost corporate entities, sleek and powerful. Irene’s verbal sparring with Kai’s uncle Ao Shun was very entertaining. You could almost hear the cogs in Irene’s brain spinning as she tried to keep from giving offence to this creature that could obliterate her with a thought, yet at the same time to appear unflappable, never mind that Kai’s family was far more important than she’d expected. Ao Shun was majestic and scary, but also loved his nephew and I really liked the role he played in the plot. He was almost, but not quite a Dragon Ex Machina and Cogman deployed him with skill and finesse.
After visiting with the dragons on a hyper modern world, Irene travels to the heart of the fae realm, where chaos reigns supreme and neutral or Ordered beings quickly sicken and cease to function normally. She ends up in a past Venice, where Carnival never stops and the fae hold sway. Discovering more about the fae and their nature was fascinating. I mean, what even are the fae? Other than selfish cretins and rather destructive to boot? Well, they are most definitely innate schemers and plotters as fae society seems to hang together from politics and intrigues. Unsurprisingly, this was one of my favourite elements of the plot. And while politics & quick thinking are more important than brawn in the book in many ways, there is still plenty of ass-kicking for Irene to do.
And Irene kicks ass in style! In the midst of a wonderfully engaging and entertaining plot, Cogman manages to show significant character development for both Irene and Kai. I loved how Irene struggles with her role as Kai’s mentor and how to balance that with being his friend—and maybe even more. Kai for his part isn’t actively included in the narrative for large portions of the narrative, what with him being the damsel Irene needs to save, but he does have time for some soul searching, which gives the reader plenty of insight in the man. And in addition to Irene and Kai there are plenty of other wonderful characters to discover, both old and new. The intrepid detective Peregrine Vale makes a return appearance, to my delight, as does Irene’s superior Coppelia. And then there is the group of students Irene hides among the train ride to Venice. They are a mixed bunch in terms of allegiances, but each wonderfully cast and I really enjoyed them and the way Cogman used them to explain more about the place Irene is about to visit.
Mythical Venice is about as storied a city as is London and Cogman’s depiction of it is alluring and alarming at a similar rate. Chaos reigns supreme in this version of the city of masks and the effect of the chaos, in which the fae thrive, upon the humans that share their domain is profound.They are slowly drawn into the melodrama which serves as the narrative template of the faes’ lives and as such become mere bit players in their own lives. The mix of fascination and repulsion that Irene feels for the city and its inhabitants is contagious, as I found myself sharing those feelings quite a lot.
Despite the high bar that Cogman had set for The Masked City with her previous book, she manages to clear it with ease. Once again I loved my time spent in the worlds of the Invisible Library. Irene is just too fabulous and I wanted more of her and Kai together, not to mention more time in the Library. So I’m certainly looking forward to the next book, not to mention the two after that for which Tor UK has already signed Cogman. The Masked City is a mad-cap romp of an adventure and if you are looking for an exciting and entertaining read, I highly recommend you give it a go.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.