The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
»And here in the Library, even if our outer layer is order, we have an inner heart of chaos. We read too much for it to be anything else.«
When I first encountered “The Invisible Library” I was intrigued: A library beyond space and time; an autonomous realm that sends out its spies to “acquire” unique books in order to safeguard the balance between chaos and order not in just one world but all worlds!
Dragons, Fae, Librarians – what a premise! Adventures abound! As someone who loves every single “ingredient” here, I simply had no chance but to read the first book – and, ultimately, the entire series.
Don’t get me wrong: The premise is perfect whereas the actual execution isn’t always. Nevertheless, I loved reading every single instalment and it was with eagerness and a dose of sadness that I went on reading this “season finale” as Cogman calls it.
And what a finale this was! Sent out on a seemingly impossible assignment, undercover and under the guise of having gone rogue, Irene – supported by Kai (of course!), Vale (the local manifestation of Sherlock Holmes), and her apprentice Catherine, a Fae, goes on to try and get rid of Alberich for good, to solve the mystery of entire worlds disappearing and one that lies at the heart of the Library itself…
Since this time the stakes are so high, Irene not only reluctantly accepts but embraces the help of her friends. That pays off not only in terms of the eponymous “Untold Story” (now, paradoxically, told!) but also in allowing us to get even more insight into Kai, Vale and Catherine and each of them gets their respective chance to shine bright which was a delight to read.
»‘All right,’ Irene said, accepting [Catherine’s] decision. And may God have mercy on my soul for dragging her and Kai and Vale into this.«
Many characters from previous books make an appearance and – in the light of the threat of annihilation – actually cooperate. Cogman expertly plays with archetypes, the resistance to work together and how each character overcomes their inhibitions towards the “other side”.
The entire book is fast-paced but intrinsically plausible. No plotholes occur, all the loose ends are picked up and brought together in a furious, brilliant, dramatic and astonishing final showdown.
Personally, I could go on reading about Irene’s exploits for many more books but I think it’s a smart choice of Cogman to – at least temporarily – leave her beloved characters to their own devices. Many authors’ heroes overstay their welcome to the point that we don’t even want to read about them anymore.
Some authors (cf. Elizabeth George) milk their literary “cows” to the bitter end, others wisely and sensitively dispose of them entirely (cf. Henning Mankell’s Wallander).
Just leaving them at the top of their game is, in my (rarely humble) opinion, a great choice: No need to complicatedly “resurrect” the hero (cf. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes) or kill them.
Just let them enjoy prolonged (or possibly even infinite) holidays!
»Stories are like that. They’ll wait for you until you can come back to them.«
I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent with being told the “Untold Story” – it was like revisiting a beloved place. Its ending provides much needed closure but opens up new opportunities and, thus, I’m definitely looking very much forward to reading whatever else Genevieve Cogman is coming up with.
I rarely know how to actually rate a book in terms of stars before I write its review but after having finished this book late last night in an almost desperate attempt to know how it ends (and in a race against sleep!), there was no doubt about it (and writing this review only reinforced it):
Five out of five stars.
»‘There are no limits to self-sacrifice when we’re doing our jobs,’ Irene said wearily.«
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The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman