The third title in Genevieve Cogman’s clever and exciting The Invisible Library series, The Burning Page is an action-packed literary adventure!
Librarian spy Irene has professional standards to maintain. Standards that absolutely do not include making hasty, unplanned escapes through a burning besieged building. But when the gateway back to your headquarters dramatically malfunctions, one must improvise. And after fleeing a version of Revolutionary France astride a dragon (also known as her assistant, Kai), Irene soon discovers she’s not the only one affected. Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across a multitude of worlds, creating general havoc. She and Kai are tasked with a mission to St Petersburg’s Winter Palace, to retrieve a book which will help restore order.
However, such plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy – particularly when the enemy is the traitor Alberich. A nightmare figure bent on the Library’s destruction, Alberich gives Irene a tainted ‘join me or die’ job offer. Meanwhile, Irene’s old friend Vale has been damaged by exposure to Chaotic forces and she has no idea how to save him. When another figure from her past appears, begging for help, Irene has to take a good hard look at her priorities. And of course try to save the Library from absolute annihilation. Saving herself would be a bonus.
Book one was our introduction to the world. Book two was proof of the danger of Chaotic influence on that world. In book three, it’s the Library itself which is threatened. None of your faves are safe – reality itself isn’t safe. That final confrontation, guys… I barely breathed.
It’s official. I have given five stars to every book in the Invisible Library series. There is nothing I dislike about it. I’ve been yelling about these books to friends and family for weeks. Irene is the sister I never had, or I want to marry her, or I want to be her?? I just can’t decide?? In conclusion, you should read these. Right now. This is the pinnacle of books-about-books. I nearly yelled at Alberich on a packed commuter train. The next one isn’t out until December 2017. Help me.
To paraphrase the tweet I sent to Genevieve the day I finished The Burning Page: This book ripped out my heart, stomped all over it with dragon-clawed feet, and then set it on fire.
So, details. The stakes are hecking high in this one. The Library as a functioning anchor of reality, as an irreplaceable collection of fiction, is threatened with oblivion. Alberich is back, and he’s not going to be fobbed off with petty little wards this time. I had Edge Chronicle flashbacks, but this is so much huger. And what Irene must do in order to stop him is terrifying, and heartbreaking, and culminates in one irreversible act which made me feel vast shame and guilt by proxy, never mind Irene herself.
Vale and Irene finally get some alone time, but it does not end particularly well – and Kai would also like Irene to keep in mind the fact that he would be perfectly amenable to sleeping with her if she expressed an interest. Do I see a love triangle in Irene’s future? Dear goodness, I hope not. But I suspect Kai of being polyamorous at this point, so all he has to do is persuade Irene and Vale (especially Vale, is my hunch) to the same conclusion, and everyone will be happy. As long as people stop trying to kill them for five minutes. Spiders! Werewolves! Wasps! Fire! Falling bookshelves! Scorpions! Magical bears! Do not skim these pages, my friends. If you blink at the wrong moment, someone might die.
I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the space given to Vale and Kai’s trauma from their experiences in the last book. Vale is infected with Chaos, and while Silver might have his own ideas, Vale faces some very difficult decisions about the core of his self. Small shout-out to Singh, Underrated Friend of the Year, who is so gravely concerned with Vale’s wellbeing even when Vale himself is being self-destructive. Kai is, quite understandably, suffering some post-traumatic stress from his imprisonment in a world antithetical to his very being, and Irene is notably very aware of the situations he’s being asked to face while he’s still dealing with that. This is not a group of people who tripped merrily off to another world and returned none the worse off. This is a group of people who are being battered, emotionally and physically, in their fight to stay alive and true to themselves. I can’t wait for the sequel, but my heart is in my mouth for this group of people whom I love so very dearly.