Library Spies in Venice: The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

Goodreads summary:

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the Fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the Fae. With this act of aggression, the Fae  are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

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 face death.


Now that the rules of the Invisible Library universe have been established at a basic level, Genevieve Cogman gets to have some real fun in this book with the rules of story. The Fae feed off humans by acting in the role of a story archetype, drawing the humans to play the bit-parts around them. In a world ruled by Fae and chaos, narrative law is stronger than physics or common sense. Irene has to learn to manipulate the Fae’s own lives against them if she’s to have any chance of saving Kai – before she becomes the villain in someone else’s story.

We get a much closer look at the politics and structure of Fae society in The Masked City, and we encounter some truly legend-worthy figures. If the Horse is as powerful as we see, then I don’t want to imagine what horror the Rider could enact. Through it all, Irene (mostly) keeps her head. And this time the stakes are personal. Kai’s kidnapping could have disastrous consequences, not just for Irene’s fledgling found family, but also for the universe as a whole.

The Fae who took Kai mean to provoke war with the dragons, a war to end all wars and probably even reality itself. Irene has to break into the very seat of their power in order to stop a conflict that would rage across worlds.

Of course, being the Irene that I know and absolutely love, she also has time to discuss morality with the opposition, manipulate a few Fae narrative and argue with her supervisor – not to mention conduct diplomatic talks with a dragon king.

This is, as I now realise I should expect from Genevieve,  a deliciously drawn world full of sensation, flavour, and the heavy press of danger. The Venice of the Fae’s stories, and of ours, is of course different from the Venice of our reality. Genevieve plays upon that delight we’ve given to fictional Venice, and builds palaces and prisons to rival the great epics of fiction.

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman was published in December 2015 by Tor, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. You can buy it from Waterstones here, or Amazon here

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