Irene passed the mop across the stone floor in smooth, careful strokes, idly admiring the gleam of wet flagstones in the lantern-light.
Irene is an agent of The Library. She travels alternate worlds in search for books that she brings back to the library. But then she gets stuck with a mission to retrieve an original Grimm book from an alternate world in which magic and technology clash in different ways. And she gets stuck with a trainee on this mission.
Still, it’s get in, get out with the book. What could go wrong?
Everything of course. She finds herself with a dead vampire, a dangerous Fae ambassador, a genius detective and catburglar, all going after the book and all getting in her way.
Every once in a while, you read a book that just fits perfectly. This was one of those books. It made me smile during my morning commute. I’m not prone to smile in the mornings. It was just so much fun.
First, there’s the worldbuilding. I loved it. The Library agents travel between different alternate worlds. In this book, we get to know a so called chaos infested world: in this world, nature and magic are … weird. Archetypes are more likely to exist in these worlds. Vampires and Great Detectives and of course the Fae. The Fae thrive on chaos.
This chaos world was amazingly fun. It’s steampunky with a Victorian-like setting. It’s got zeppelins and metal creatures built by crazy inventors.
It’s also got magical creatures and – and I can’t stress enough how much I loved this – women as a normal part of the working world. Female professors, zeppelin pilots, blackmailers! It’s awesome. It’s normal. It’s nice to read a world where there’s not just one woman breaking down societal conventions. In this book, women are part of the normal fabric of the world, doing jobs, being part of things. It’s sad that I noticed it so much, because it shows how rarely it appears in other novels.
Then there’s the characters. Our protagonist is Irene. And Irene is awesome.
Fair Folk or not, this man was an arrogant, insulting, offensive boor, and if she could she would personally make him run a marathon ahead of an oncoming locomotive.
She is an experienced librarian and even though during this particular mission a lot of things go wrong, she never loses her head. She is scared, she feels insecure, but she never loses sight of the bigger picture. She is always thinking, planning, finding ways out. She can also bash people over the head if necessary.
One of the most important aspects of command is not giving orders that won’t be obeyed, she reminded herself. ‘Get a sword down from the wall, Kai’, she said. ‘Find Vale, help him if he needs it. Do what you can to sort this out. I’ll take care of myself.’
Then there’s Kai, her mysterious new assistant. He’s a really pretty guy. He knows it. Irene knows it. But she doesn’t let that get in the way of the mission.
What I loved was the banter between Irene and Kai. It was genuine, awesome banter that made me smile. There was real chemistry between the characters and a believable friendship.
Irene tugged at her earlobe. We may be overheard. When Kai didn’t seem to get the hint, she tugged at it more obviously.
‘Or do you think -‘
‘I’d rather do my thinking through on the other side,’ she snapped. So much for Kai’s potential streetwise criminality and any ability to take hints.
The other characters were amazing as well. There’s Vale, who is the Sherlock Holmes of that world. There’s Bradamant, also a librarian and something of Irene’s arch-nemesis. Their relationship was also well-written. With these relationships there’s always the danger of them slipping into the typical mean girl territory, but no. They don’t like each other but they work together when the need arises.
I can’t wait for the next book!
This book was so much fun to read. It’s got an interesting world and amazing, multi-layered characters with believable relationships. Go read it 🙂