Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Invisible Library Cover ArtTitle : The Invisible Library

Author : Genevieve Cogman

Publisher : Roc Trade Paperback Original

Release date : June 14th, 2016

Rating : 3.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Review :

The Invisible Library’s world isn’t perfect, but in my bookworm’s opinion, it has so much potential that I could drown in it!

This trilogy (yep, already two books are out in Europe) bathes in a pool of possibilities; possibility to go deeper into each character, possibility to expand this series and generate spin-offs à la Mortal Instruments, possibility to explore all the alternate worlds mentioned throughout the book. I am positively amazed at the potential of this world Cogman created! However, all this potential had me realizing that there was, in my opinion, too much action and not enough substance; all my unanswered questions and some loose ends left me unsatisfied. But still I cannot wait to read the second book!

From the summary, I thought this would be a classic fantasy read, you know? It would have meant an elegant and solemn prose, precise and extended vocabulary, but that’s not what I encountered when I turned on the first page. It remains, after all, a YA series. It was, first of all, pretty clear that this was Cogman’s debut novel, as the writing is a bit inconsistent and disorganized. But just a bit, though, no more. The protagonist Irene’s voice dominated the novel, and considering how “young” she is, Cogman felt the need to add those YA-typical unnecessary bits of thoughts and “attitude” or, like we call it these days, sassiness. Unfortunately, Irene’s voice took away the mystery and the foreignness of what this book could have been, considering the highly intriguing concept of an out-of-this-world Library, alternate worlds and espionage.

After I got over my disappointment, though, I was quickly drawn in by the spy thing. The author demonstrates many spy reflexes and techniques, while not being too heavy on the stuff, but just enough to make it exciting and feel like you could pull off those tricks and look totally badass. What also drew me in was the world. Can you imagine? Alternate worlds, an Invisible Library existing between them, Library agents going in those worlds to take precious books and encountering fictional creatures, like werewolves and vampires and faes. However, the way Cogman presented her world left to be desired. “Slowly but surely” would apply here; I could even add a “too slowly”. It was so slow, even, that I got confused many times at the beginning, and even nearing the middle. Needless to say, my frustration flared up quite a few times.

For the characters themselves, what I liked most was their imperfection. Kai got my heart beating on his first appearance, not because he’s good-looking, but because he’s a novice: he’s inexperienced, curious, eager to learn, eager to come up with smart ideas and solutions to please his mentor. Just a little puppy wagging his tail! Irene is a spy, but a junior spy, prone to mistakes, and not always the best. She’s not a Bond or a Bourne, she’s still learning, and sometimes lets her emotions have the better of her. Most importantly, she learns to trust herself and to tackle difficult questions about her circumstances and the Library. Their imperfection creates perfect moments of laughter, moments to enjoy and cherish because their situation is quite dark indeed. The tension between Kay and Irene was unnecessary, but very entertaining and helped to add some lightness in their mission.

The Invisible Library’s was a thrilling adventure, where dragons and faes and other creatures mingle, and anything can happen at the turn of a page!

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ARC Review : Admiral by Sean Danker

Admiral.jpgTitle : Admiral (Evagardian #1)

Author : Sean Danker

Publisher : Roc

Release date : May 3rd, 2016

Rating : 4/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer.

Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

Review :

I would like to thank NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of Admiral!

As a whole, this science-fiction book was highly entertaining and suspenseful and fast-paced! It’s the kind of books that could be made into a movie!

This novel got me like a roller coaster. As it is often the case with roller coasters, I ended up with a smile and the happiness to have gone through it. And a headache (from too much feels). Reading the title could equate to me strapping myself to the seat. Reading the summary and getting excited to read it would be the first ascent. The first 50 pages of the book are the first descent, and the rest of the book was… an infinite ascent? No, no. It would be an alternate between flat parts and ascents, and then the end is a slight descent.

In spite of how this review will start, I have to highlight the excitement I got from reading this book.

The beginning is just plain confusing and frustrating. There is close to no setting. I was as confused as the Admiral was, considering that, as it is stated in the summary, he wakes up to a strange situation. Although I could see that his style of writing would please me, because all descriptions were well-written and never took too much space, Danker just made us leap into the cauldron. We don’t know anything about this sci-fi world, and we are left to figure it out by ourselves, with almost no information to begin with. I mean, if the admiral is confused, how confused would we be? I’m aware that this puzzlement is purposeful since it’s a first person narrator, but having a confused narrator AND no setting is a quick and easy way to turn off a reader.

However, we quickly realize that the Admiral is a capable man. Despite his perplexity, he is cool-headed and goes straight to work, inquiring about their whereabouts and trying to figure out how to survive on this strange planet. The Admiral’s real identity is a mystery to everyone, but even his lack of name (on our part) didn’t stop me from liking him. He is smart, adaptive and highly resourceful. He reminded me a lot of Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, just less funny (but still funny!).

Honestly, all the characters grew on me. There are only 4, but I learnt to appreciate them each in their own way. Deilani was slightly annoying at the beginning, but now the respect I have for her surpasses the respect I have for the Admiral. They are both great, don’t get me wrong, but the ending did her more justice. Nils and Salmagard were amazing and smart and resourceful throughout the book. The interactions and the banter between the characters were enjoyable. Although the hierarchy of this world made me perplex a few times, the 4 recruits come from different backgrounds, and Danker made a point of playing with their different point of views on some subjects. 10 points for Danker.

There is one element I was very conflicted about in this book. Sean Danker knows a lot about computers, technology, engineering, and so on, you know the kind. I always appreciate very much when an author does his/her homework and uses it well. The military thinking was also on point. Really, it showed a lot of dedication and hard work, and I truly thank him for it. However, I myself am not familiar with so many aeronautics and mechanical terms. So, as it turned out, there were some parts where I was completely lost. The first rule of writing I learnt was never to assume the reader knows what I’m talking about. It doesn’t mean that an author has to treat their readers as idiots, but when their story takes place in a highly technology-advanced future and in a domain not everyone is familiar with (aeronautics), one would expect them to explain a little.

Danker’s writing is very good and precise. Not one detail was left to chance, and the military thinking, like I pointed out above, is well thought of. He perfectly conveyed the creepiness of the planet’s inhabitants; I had goosebumps when our protagonists first encountered them. Also, Danker described incredibly well the strangeness of the planet and its eerie atmosphere.

The ending was fast paced and incredibly exciting. It got my heart beating like crazy, and I couldn’t put the book down. I just HAD to know how it would end. I was literally cheering for every character. I sure as hell will read the sequel, because I just have to know what else will happen to them. It’s an amazing way to end a first book: no cliffhangers, but just enough unanswered questions that would push the reader to come back.

Admiral is a nice mix of The Martian and Prometheus. It was suspenseful, and a bit creepy, and there was a lot of action. It was really good! I would recommend it for sci-fi fans!

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Book Review : Railhead by Philip Reeve

27262793Title : Railhead

Author : Philip Reeve

Publisher : Oxford University Press

Release date : October 1st, 2015

Rating : 4.8/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

The Great Network is an ancient web of routes and gates, where sentient trains can take you anywhere in the galaxy in the blink of an eye. Zen Starling is a nobody. A petty thief from the filthy streets of Thunder City who aimlessly rides the rails of the Network. So when the mysterious stranger Raven offers Zen a chance to escape the squalor of the city and live the rest of his days in luxury, Zen can’t believe his luck. All he has to do is steal one small box from the Emperor’s train with the help of Nova, an android girl. But the Great Network is a hazardous mess of twists and turns, and that little box just might bring everything in this galaxy — and the next — to the end of the line. The highly anticipated novel from Carnegie-medal-winning author Philip Reeve, Railhead is a fast, immersive, and heart-pounding ride perfect for any sci-fi fan. Step aboard — the universe is waiting.

Review :

First of all, THANK YOU to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the eBook of this science fiction novel! However, I would like to assure everyone that this doesn’t influence my review.

Railhead blew my mind away! It never felt slow and the writing is riveting!

As soon as I began reading, I was captivated. The book starts off fast paced and immediately excites the reader. I just knew I’d love it. It’s action-packed and entertaining; the style of writing captivates the attention, and it’s really fitting for a world always on the move. When I read, I’m usually bothered at incomplete sentences that lack a subject or a verb, which strike me more like a lazy move than an actual addition to the reading experience. But in Railhead, those sentences fall nicely on the lips. It’s like our attention is guided to all the right places. That’s it, I found the word: the writing is immersive.

For such a good writing style, I did find one flaw. It seemed to me like Reeve skimmed too quickly over big, deep emotions such as shock, sadness, and even awe. Like this grand revelation which I thought would be defining, in the plotline or at least in Zen’s life, but it wasn’t written as such. It was almost dismissed as something that would only be useful for his mission, and not after. The importance of the job isn’t quite well conveyed either. Sure, Zen realizes it’s big, but the way the author goes through his “explanations” doesn’t impress anyone. I felt like I should’ve been awed and wowed by the grandness of the danger, but I wasn’t.

For the first time, he started to think that the plan might work. (p. 72)

Hum. I didn’t get an impression that it wouldn’t, despite the fact that it was written that it could go very wrong. See what I’m saying?

In spite of this lack of depth, I really liked all the characters. From the minors to the majors, they all do at least one thing that made me like them, instead of just being indifferent. They aren’t Game of Thrones-complex, but feel real and common. They aren’t special in any way; they have issues, are sometimes selfish, indecisive. There’s really nothing to dislike and they’re not one-dimensional. My personal favorite would be Nova, who reminded me a bit of Ava in Ex Machina (it’s a movie). Some chapters are dedicated to other characters than Zen, the protagonist, and the plot lines intersect and come together so well. We alternate between Zen’s side and the law’s side, and there’s this ambiguity about whether Zen is doing the right thing or not. Since we see both sides of the coin, the reader is left torn between them, because, on one side, we have our hero Zen who goes through all this trouble to complete his mission, and on the other, we have righteous people who try to do good by the laws.

My biggest WOW of this book, though, would be the world Reeve created. It is HUGE. Zen’s world covers a gigantic part of our galaxy. There are K-trains, which are trains that can go from planet to planet through what they call K-gates. The Network, composed of nearly 1 000 gates, is like an enormous metro system. As we follow Zen, we go through different planets, all with their own characteristics. We visit a misty planet, a planet ruled by merchants, a beach planet, and so on. It gave me serious Star Wars and Star Trek feels. “Railhead” is a term similar to Potterhead, referring to fans of this way of transportation. Zen is a railhead, and he loves going on the trains to watch the worlds go by… The science part of this book is still a mystery to me; there are unanswered questions about how the K-gates were created or how the way of life must differ from planet to planet. But hey, I didn’t start this book to educate myself on relativity, wormholes and such, right? I’m willing to let this uncertainty pass, because I adore this futuristic world so much, I wish I could live there! I also noticed references to very actual and real concerns from our own world, like artificial intelligence (AI), technology and resources. That was a very nice touch.

As you may well have guessed it by now, I really loved this book. It’s an action-packed, well-written novel, in which the characters are all likable, and set in a wonderful world made of alien worlds and alien stars. Recommended for fans of scifi!

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