The Masked City
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, Tor!
Check out my review of The Invisible Library, the first book in the series!
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.
"This is a place built to store books, by people who wanted to preserve books, and used by people who want to read those books. I am not alone."Well guys, I'm just going to put it straight out there...once again Cogman has written a book that immediately hits my "Favourite Books of the Year" list. Seriously. This has been one of my most anticipated books since I read The Invisible Library in December last year. I've been waiting and waiting and getting more and more excited and then there was a cover, and then the book was finally in my hands because Lauren over at Tor is freaking awesome!
Straight up, there is no second book syndrome here guys, don't worry. In fact this book is kinda tied with the first book, I can't quite decide if it's better or not, so I'll settle for both being freaking AMAZING! I dived back in to this world head first and you know, it's the world and it's the bookishness, but it made me feel like coming home. I love the world, it feels homey to me, I get it. I get Irene and I get her job.
You open up the book, and the first thing you see is an extract from the Student Librarians Handbook and I was just like "yaaaaaass! I'm back!", it prodded my memory, and gave me some in depth knowledge of the Fae and Dragons before we got stuck in with the book. I knew it was all going to kick off with that lot from the blurb but reading the extract I was like.....something's going to go down and it won't be good! It was such a good way to bring you back to the world of the book, and show you the way Librarians are taught to think and gives you more information about the species of the world before you get started. Or ya know...refreshes your memory about them!
Right from the start you're pulled back in to the book, yes by the characters and the world and everything but the atmosphere really grabbed and next thing I know...I'm back in Irene's world. I loved how atmospheric Invisible Library was and I was so pleased this book continued it on. Genuine chills down the spine, excited shivers kind of atmosphere. The atmosphere in this book is something you can practically feel and it helps set the scene and helps you get a feel for whichever setting it is you're in as you're reading. It helps to bring the world alive and brings you in to the story as you feel what the characters are feeling, the tension, the suspense the danger and so on.
We're already familiar with the world, and the atmosphere, like I said, brings you straight back in and it all comes flooding back from the first book so it's like you never left. The alternate Irene is residing in is an alternate London, kind of Victorian era with steampunk and so on, and it all formed in your mind as you were reading. The buildings shot up out of the fog, as the characters materialised.
The world building in the first book blew my mind, and in this book...I can't even. We don't stay in Irene's alternate, oh no, we see the Library again. I've got to say I love the visuals for the library! But more than that, we travel to another alternate. It's an alternate Venice and it's just so damn decadent and colourful and mysterious and kind of creepy with the fog and the secret police just appearing out of nowhere! Venice is one of the places I most want to visit, and Cogman really brought it to life for me, I got a feel for the place itself as well as the one created in the book for the Fae to reside in, and it was so vivid. So so vivid. I felt like I was there and I was loving all the visuals being thrown out not to mention the unique twists like a Fae prison in a....unique location!
There's immediate action in the book, the plot is moving in to motion and the intrigue is starting right from page one. There is no faffing about, straight in there! The thing about these books, is that there are so many little threads that all come in to play at the beginning and weave together to start the plot, and then more and more threads are added, and you end up with this delightfully complex plot to sink your teeth in to and you end up being constantly surprised by the twists and turns to it. You had to work out who'd taken Kai, why, to what end, what their motivation was, what the bigger picture was and so on. There's still Alberich hanging over things and I was just waiting for him to pop up and now next book I'll be waiting for him and a character from this one to be all "surprise...I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me!".
There was always something going on, you've got some political power struggle with the Fae, the whole thing with the Dragons and the Fae and you're glued to the book and finding it impossible to find a place to put it down. I genuinely went to a gig last night and I was stood there like...."I wonder how Irene's going to rescue Kai, and THEN try and escape, because this is going on..." and so on and so on. You're constantly intrigued, and the next book has been subtly set up, so subtly that you don't even realize it until the end! The thing is, while the plot is complex, the book is easy to read. There's no drawn out descriptions and explanations. Any mention of events from the previous book are concise. The pace of the book has you rocketing through it, and the flow is so perfect.
The narrative is so fluid, you go from the prologue, back in time to before the events of the prologue happened, then from there it smoothly takes us through the events leading up to the prologue event, and then past it. Not to mention how the little interludes are slotted in without seeming jarring or out of place. You smoothly go from Irene and what's going on with her, to a little interlude to give a nice little break and Kai's point of view. Not to mention more intrigue and pieces of the puzzle.
The thing I loved most, or well...one of the things, in the previous book was the originality. There's a tonne more of it here. The premise itself is original, and everything I loved from the first book was back. The Fae and their lore, the Dragons and theirs. The Library and how it works. The alternates. The things in the alternates. We also see the alternate Kai resided in and it's such a brilliant contrast to the one they reside in. There's so many unique things about the settings, the alternate Venice for example! I don't want to spoil by being specific! I just love how original the book is and how it's kept up with all these little things here and there.
Irene continues to be one of my favourite characters ever. In the first book I found her so easy to connect with and in this book it was like reuniting with an old friend. She's reintroduced with her entertaining and witty narrative and you kind of just sigh as you read, and think "it's good to be back" especially as she's in such a situation that only she would be in! She's Librarian in Residence now, and there's all this new responsibility and a new weight to her actions throughout the book, because it will impact that. There's no hunt for a book this time, well there is a bit, but not so much as the first book! Irene continues to make me laugh, to be badass in her own unique way, she's intelligent and she's just awesome. I love her, I really do! I loved that she's willing to ignore Library rules to go after Kai and save him, no matter how much trouble she would get in.
There was a lot less Kai in this book, he was still here, we got some Kai time...but obviously not as much and I was kind of okay with that because while I'm looking forward to Kai and his nature, and the problems it may cause, I enjoyed seeing more of Vale. As well as, dare I say it, Silver. Not to mention the new characters! Vale in this book really struck me as a Sherlock Holmes kind of detective, and I knew he was going to do something, but I was still surprised when he popped up! Silver and his actions also surprised me, even though he was really trying to help himself, it was kind of cool to learn more about him and his past considering how big a presence he is in the alternate they all live in.
What's doing brilliantly in this book, much like the first book, is the characters. They're all created so fantastically and with detail and depth. As you read about them you have an image of them forming in your mind and it's not just main characters. The secondary characters all get the same treatment. I kind of think Zayanna and Irene would make a good team so I'm slightly hoping to see her again! Not so much a certain Lady. The villain of the book was delightfully awful, and I really wanted to smack him one, I didn't much care for his power either! He was so well created that you could feel Irene's urgency to get away from him and the sense of danger when he was in a scene.
What was super exciting, was meeting Kai's Uncle and seeing more dragons and learning more about them, but I'm completely greedy and want more! I love dragons, I'm not going to lie and the way they've been done in this book just makes me excited to see more of them! We also learn a fair bit about the Fae, their legends, their history, how they tick. I'm intrigued by them even more so after quasi meeting The Ten. I just love the whole thing with the Fae and how they work and so on, it fascinates me and kind of just resonates with me, in a way. I feel like it's such a true thing in real life, everyone has their own story and they paint themselves a hero or a villain and so on and everyone they encounter is a character in the story of their life, so yeah!
I must mention, right now, that I'm just waiting for Kai and Irene to be a thing. I sort of really, kinda ship them and this book just fuelled it really! There's no outright romance, but there are feelings, they don't take over the whole book and plot...but they are there and I'm waiting to see what will happen next with them. Mostly I just want more time in the world of the books! The ending of this book really didn't help...cliffhanger much!? It's a bearable one...just. But still. Cogman knows how to leave you wanting more and excitedly anticipating the next book without over doing it! I can't wait to see where we go next, I'm so up for exploring more alternates and I can't wait to see what happens to Irene next. After the first book I had some suspicions about her parentage and I'm waiting to see if I'm right!
The Masked City is the second decadent and moreish instalment in a completely engrossing series that lets you get completely lost in the pages as you're sucked in to the world. There's plenty of action and a load of humour that has you chuckling as you read. The Masked City is one of those books that's so colourful and vivid, you can picture it like a little movie in your head and it begs to be adapted to the big screen. There's an atmosphere so real that you find yourself on the edge of your seat, biting your nails as you read scenes full of danger and suspense. The characters come alive, and it's one of those books you want to crawl inside and live in the world of so, so badly. There's a love of books to this series, and you can feel it in every page and connect to the world and characters through it. The originality is still there, saturating everything and making a story unlike any you've read before. This is one of those series I want to go on and on forever because the world being created is so extensive and the possibilities for this series are endless!
The Masked City is kind of the perfect sequel and I am gutted it's over and kind of wishing I read slower! Having said that, there where some little bonuses that helped make the separation easier! Irene's favourite heists and Legends of the Library....definitely a nice addition to the book!