Genevieve Cogman – The Burning Page

Librarian spy Irene has standards to maintain, especially while on probation. And absconding from a mission via a besieged building doesn’t look good. But when her escape route home goes up in flames, what’s a spy to do? However, it seems Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across dozens of worlds. Worse still, her nemesis Alberich is responsible — and he plans to annihilate the Library itself.

Irene and assistant Kai are posted to St Petersburg to help combat this threat. Here Alberich emerges as Irene tries to save her friend Vale and foil assassination attempts. Then one incredibly dangerous opportunity to save the Library emerges. Saving herself would be a bonus…

Genevieve Cogman’s The invisible Library series is one of my favourite series of the past years. I love the setting and sensibility of the books, which in many ways reminds me of Emma Newman’s Split Worlds books, which is one of my favourite series of all time. Getting to spend more time with Irene and Kai is always a treat and on that note The Burning Page definitely didn’t disappoint. 

The book dealt with some interesting fallout from the last book, The Masked City, what with Kai’s nature revealed and the added interference of his uncle’s court. And there is the added complication of what extended exposure to Chaos has done to Vale and how to re-establish his equilibrium. All of which Irene will need to solve without putting a foot wrong as she’s been put on probation by the Library.

The central theme to The Burning Page is trust and where to place it. Irene needs to figure out who to trust and to what extent. She knows she can trust Kai without question, yet to what extent will the greater involvement of his family in his life will complicate matters is unclear, especially since he keeps hinting that moving into the dragon embassy in Vale’s world would be so much safer for them. Similarly, Vale’s loyalty should be beyond doubt, yet his erratic behaviour due to his chaos infestation makes him unpredictable. Similarly, how much can she trust Bradamant, Zayanna, and the Library establishment who all seem to want to help her, yet all could have their own agenda too. Irene has to make some really difficult and messy choices and Cogman showed Irene’s inner conflict about it very well.

Alberich is back and he is a such a cool villain. He is a complete sociopath and utterly unlikable which makes him a great foil for our heroes. If there is one thing about The Burning Page that left me a bit iffy is one of the reveals pulled out of the hat regarding Alberich and Irene. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but it seemed to signal the introduction of a very well-known genre trope. However, I sort of trust Cogman to either be really original in the execution or to completely pull the rug out from under me in the next book, so it didn’t make me throw the book at the wall (yet). Still, I absolutely loved the scenes where Irene confronts Alberich and the way she tracks him down. She’s such a bad-ass!

The Burning Page not just provides us with a cracking adventure, but it also packs in a ton of world-building, sometimes without the reader even noticing. For example, while we ostensibly are reading about the way Irene’s romantically being torn between Vale and Kai (TEAM KAI FTW), we also learn about dragon society, through Kai’s casual suggestion that it wouldn’t bother him if Irene was involved with both him and Vale at the same time, because that wouldn’t be a problem in dragon society. Not only does that illustrate that dragon society is more liberal in their relationship mores, they are also perhaps less patriarchal as they might come across at first glance.

If The Masked City revealed more about Kai’s heritage, The Burning Page shows us more about Irene’s background and possibly her parentage. I really hope that in one of the next books we actually get to meet her parents and learn more about the questions that were raised in this book. What we do learn a lot more about is the nature of the Library and how its universe works. There is some really nitty-gritty explanations for how the various worlds are connected and how they function, which I totally loved. I also loved the warren of Alberich’s home plane(t) and the nightmarish appearance of what should have been a paradise to Irene. The labyrinthine threat of Alberich’s library and the constant menace it exudes were fabulous and the ending completely slayed my nerves.

The Burning Page is another great instalment in The Invisible Library series and I had a great time with it. I’m so happy that books four and five have already been announced by the publisher. I can’t wait to return to the Library and see what Irene, Kai and their friends will get up to in the next book, because it seems as if library leadership is due for a wake-up call. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, please do, because it is so much fun and I highly recommend it. If you’ve read the previous books, you probably won’t need much persuading to read the next one, but you really, really should!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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