I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My review of the first book of the series can be found here.
We left Irene at the end of the last book just as she took on a permanent position of a “Detective” (Undercover Librarian) in one of the alternative Londons and she and Kai began working alongside their old friend Peregrine Vale. Things are going as well as they can be expected when you have a thirst for solving crimes, have taken the names of two very cunning heroines of classic literature (Irene Adler and Lady Winter) and your apprentice is a dragon. However, the fact that he is a dragon becomes quite problematic when he is suddenly kidnapped, probably by the Fae who are the sworn enemies of dragons. Unfortunately, this means that Irene has to turn to one of the least pleasant characters she knows – Lord Silver that we’ve met in the last book. He is as sleazy as ever, but he is somewhat helpful – apparently Kai’s been taken to The Masked City (Venice) for the purpose of starting a war with dragons. In short, the war would mean eternal chaos across all the alternates and all hell would quite literally break loose. Rescuing an apprentice is quite different to what Irene normally does – she usually steals books, not dragons! How much flirting, story-telling and sword-fighting would Irene have to do to free Kai and save the worlds? And would she ever simply get the chance to sit down and read a good book, which is what she’s wanted all along?
Irene, Kai and Vale are back in this installment and they’re as kick-ass as ever. “The Masked City” was one of my most anticipated sequels of last year but I’ve been saving it for New Year’s Day – it goes quite well with a glass of champagne and chocolates left over from Christmas, I have to say. It was quite lovely to be back in the world I began missing as soon as I finished the final page of “The Invisible Library”, and it was wonderful to see Irene again. Naturally, my major job envy hasn’t gone anywhere, although I had hoped for more time spent in The Library than I got at the end. Nonetheless, I love Italy, and Irene’s Venice was an excellent setting. This installment, for me, was less about wish fulfilment and more about enjoying a terrific action and adventure story. Indeed, “The Masked City” focuses a lot more on the action than the world-building, unlike “The Invisible Library”, but there was still a lot of room for character development and we learned quite a bit about certain aspects of the setting (well – settings).
The book’s central conflict is the war between the elitist nations of the Fae and the Dragons that’s been going on across all the alternates, as Irene learns. Lord Silver and the Guanteses (the Guantes’?) are the two sleazy villains that believe that the world quite literally revolves around them. The Fae are, however, much worse in that aspect. I’ve known quite a few people like that – they always believe that they are the protagonist of their own story and everyone else are just background characters. Silver and Lord and Lady Guantes are exactly like that, except their narcissism is amplified tenfold. The Dragons (Kai’s family) are less unpleasant, but they aren’t exactly warm and cuddly either.
These characters, and of course our favourite protagonists, are one of the best parts of the novel. I was also thrilled to see my favourite element of the last book – The Language – make a spectacular come back. At the start of the book, I was, however, quite exasperated with Irene’s excessive use of it and was waiting for it to blow up in her face. Revealing whether or not that’s what happened would be a very big spoiler though ;). It was good to see Irene make smarter decisions as the book progressed, and it was even better to see that “The Masked City” continues playing with tropes and somewhat breaking the fourth wall – a tradition that started in “The Invisible Library” and which I enjoyed immensely. “The Masked City” is quite self-aware in the way fans of this series would be familiar with by now and would certainly appreciate. We see this self-awareness in character development, the setting and of course, the research that Irene does in order to solve everyone’s problems.
“The Masked City” is a great sequel to a terrific first installment of the series, and I cannot wait to find out the title of the third, and hopefully not the final, installment of “The Invisible Library” series. My rating is 8/10.
“I just can’t stay away from a good library,’ she said, keeping to English. ‘It’s an addiction with me. Do you have the same problem?”
“‘Oh, I admit that not all stories have happy endings, but people prefer what they’re used to. If you were to actually ask them, nine out of ten would prefer a storybook existence to a mechanistic universe where happy endings never happen.”
“‘Most people don’t want a brave new world. They want the story that they know.”
You might like “The Masked City” if you liked:
“The Library of Shadows” by Mikkel Birkegaard
“Magic Ex Libris series” by Jim C. Hine
“The Great Library” by Rachel Caine
“Librarian” movie trilogy
Have you read “The Invisible Library” series? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Do let me know!