I’ve never found Steampunk to be more than a nice change in genres; I don’t seek it out, but I often enjoy it when I find myself reading something that employs Steampunk elements. But with The Invisible Library, I found myself relishing it in all its idiosyncratic glory. Here it’s not overdone, the story doesn’t revolve around steam and mechanics, though both shape this part of Cogman’s greater universe. And that’s as it should be. Gimmicks and gadgets are not plot or characterization, they should simply add color to a story.
And the story itself is a delight as are the characters. Irene has a lively sense of the absurd, and so won my heart right out of the gate. She’s all too human, she gets muddled, angry, jealous, has girly crushes on handsome detectives, and is prone to non sequitur thoughts such as noting a character’s amazing grammar as he delivers a swashbuckling speech to a room filled with people being attacked by cyborg alligators. It’s a quietly hilarious book. There are laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly the humor makes you grin and think, “I like these people. Even the awful ones.” or “Irony so thick you need waders.”
Don’t expect anything too heavy here. There is violence, blood, and some ookiness likely to make you cringe a bit, but the story itself isn’t a dark one. Rather it strips down to a fairly tame detective story about the search for a special book. Which is fine, it’s good. A familiar structure makes the grace notes shine brighter. What you can expect is a heckuva good read, and the raging desire to get right to the second book in the series.