RogerBW's Blog

The Burning Page, Genevieve Cogman 06 October 2023

2016 alternate-world fantasy, third of its series. The Library is under attack!

…and that really shouldn't be dull. I don't know what it is about this series, but I find Irene unlikeable, not to mention monotonous in charging off into danger without a plan while refusing the help of her friends. All right, it's better when she finally realises that if she's in a tricky situation on her own she ought to take charge and do something about it rather than wait for someone else to bail her out… but she made that same transition last book, and I don't feel I need another half a book of wet flapping Irene before she finally does her job.

‘Darling, he’s going to kill me.’ Zayanna was apparently calm now, but Irene had the impression of a lid hastily nailed down over a seething cauldron of panic. ‘And you too, but frankly I’m more worried about me. Do something!’

I must assume it's deliberate on Cogman's part that the management of the Library really doesn't look like much of a good guy here, even if the people trying to change it are presented as opportunistic nitwits. (Nobody else comes out well either.) Why do I care about these people? Oh look here's an abortive attempt at progress on the romance subplot that's been sitting since book one, and nothing happens.

There is of course The Language, a way of controlling reality, but like bad fantasy magic it feels super-powerful but mysteriously restricted by the author from being as useful as it should be. When Cogman runs out of other ideas, The Language can solve it. Otherwise, it won't work because (doubletalk) and it's time to do something else.

Perhaps I'm irked because Cogman killed off my favourite character from the series (not just the one I liked best, the one who seemed most interesting and with the greatest sense of enthusiasm for this wondrous universe in which they're all living). Or because Verar'f hygvzngr fbyhgvba gb gur nggnpx ba gur Yvoenel vf gb qrfgebl pbhagyrff havdhr obbxf, and while she has a few qualms about it she never seriously considers any other way of dealing with the problem – and at a meta level, that's not the sort of action I want to see in my story about heroic book-lovers.

Indeed, the series was presented to me as "heroic book-lovers work to save the universe", and it's coming out more as "incompetent book thieves work for the self-interest of their shadowy masters".

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Previous in series: The Masked City | Series: The Invisible Library | Next in series: The Lost Plot

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