Tag Archives: London

The Burning Page (Invisible Library #3)

Title: The Burning Page

Author: Genevieve Cogman

Series: Invisible Library #3

The Library’s timeless existence may be running out. Alberich, though he cannot enter, has found some way to threaten it—a fact painfully clear to Irene, who has been stuck doing dangerous missions thanks to her probation. But she, Kai, Vale, and the rest of her allies don’t have the slightest idea what Alberich is up to. Irene only knows she must do whatever she can.

This has good points and bad points. Irene remains amazingly competent in a great way. I love how ready and able she is to bite back on petty retorts, or force herself to overlook offenses, because it’s childish and won’t help what she really wants to do. She’s smart and quick to judge situations (usually correctly), but she’s not perfect by any means. She knows the Library is hiding things from her but accepts that as part of the way things are and tries to work within the system (at least, to the extent that’s even possible).

The dragons still frustrate me. We finally get to see Kai’s true form, which is nice. I’m way less a fan of how dragons appear to be the dumping ground for things that don’t make sense with their natures. This time around it’s creatures of order who are totally fine with a dragon’s gender being whatever said dragon says it is, regardless of biology. Which is a headscratcher. So dragons never change their minds? But mostly it’s the biology. We have a dragon willing to declare Irene insane and take over for her because she makes what that dragon considers an irrational choice, but declaring one’s gender to be opposite one’s physical sex somehow makes sense. It would make total sense as a Fae trait, because they define themselves by the stories they tell, or participate in. I guess the dragons got stuck with it in order to make this sound cool.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. The final fight was good, and everything plays out well until the very end, when certain matters about Vale suddenly come to a head. And then the completely-exhausted Irene does something that we’ve already seen is very difficult and it’s over in about two sentences. It felt more like getting this out of the way than bringing that tension to a climax and resolution. Vale mentions nothing, and we can’t even see him react, and then it’s the end.

I also suspect Irene may be more right than she knows, and Alberich may be wrong, about one crucial detail. And Bradamant probably found out in the first book, because she’s the one who actually read the Grimm story, and I still think she cut the ending short. But if that is the case, it will take another book or more to play out.

Overall this didn’t grab me as much as the previous books. The story was more straightforward, and one of the more interesting subplots fell flat on its face by the end. If you’ve been reading the previous books and liked them, you’ll probably still like this one. I rate this book Recommended.

Knightley Academy (Knightley Academy #1)

Title: Knightley Academy

Author: Violet Haberdasher

Series: Knightley Academy #1

Henry may only be a servant at the prestigious Midsummer School for Boys, but he’s not content to stay there for the rest of his life. So when a chance comes up to test for admittance to the prestigious Knightley Academy, he jumps at it. But not everyone is happy about the old class lines being broken down. Not everyone wants a commoner at the traditionally nobles-only Knightley Academy. And although Henry is in it for himself, he soon realizes he’s carrying much more than his own hopes and dreams.

I probably would’ve cared more about the overall class structure challenge part of the story (which is a large part) if the overall worldbuilding had been better. The focus stays on Henry and almost exclusively on the two schools he’s part of, as a servant and then a student. This was good for the schools, but not so great when trying to figure out how the world works. The Knights can function as detectives, policemen, and peacekeepers, but the only knight we ever see in action is just directing traffic at the train station. There’s no sense of the political landscape on the Knightley side, beyond the Knights themselves, but this becomes important when dealing with the neighboring country, the Nordlands. So I though the whole thing could’ve benefited from a bit more information on the rest of the setting. (I also didn’t buy that a treaty alone would convince multiple nations to basically disarm, but, well, I was reading a school story, so I let that one slide.)

The characters are well-done. I didn’t buy the ending twist about the ultimate villain, but I did appreciate how various characters—especially the unpleasant ones—were shown to be simply human. Even though the bullies can come across as rather one-dimensional in their defense of a system that mostly benefits them to the detriment of everyone else, they still aren’t entirely monsters. Henry does seem to blow off his earliest attempts to be friendly with the non-commoner students, which was a bit annoying, but understandable.

Overall this wasn’t a bad read, just one I thought could’ve used more worldbuilding to really ground the story in a country/place rather than just a building. I had trouble placing the existence of magic for a long time, since curses feature prominently in the beginning, but it appears this is more of an alternate-history than alternate-world. And despite the solid characters, not much grabbed me in the story overall. I rate this book Neutral.

The Curse of the Midions (Grimoire #1)

Title: Grimoire
Author: Brad Strickland

Jarvey Midion’s life has always been plagued by strange things happening. Things breaking, or exploding, for no discernible reason. But he never thought those things might be a symptom of something more. When his family goes to London for a few days, Jarvey ends up in a world within a book. Can he rescue his parents, escape the book, and outwit the sinister Siyamon?

I wanted to like this, but mostly I found myself bored. Jarvey starts off rather interesting, with incidents that are clearly magical in nature sparking off around him, except his powers hardly ever manifest in the book, and the magic system seems to mostly be one of those “just try really hard” types. Jarvey’s possession of the Grimoire is akin to having the One Ring—a corrupting magical power that can do very great things at a very great cost—but since the book won’t even let him open it most of the time there really isn’t any opportunity for him to be tempted.

Most of the book is Jarvey getting used to an alternate-London and learning how to live on the streets with some kids from there. In that respect, nothing about this stands out from the dozens of other stories I’ve read about kids living on the streets in an old-fashioned London, and in some ways it might be worse because I can’t figure out what the point was. Only the lockpicking seems like it might be a useful skill for the future, unless he goes back to that world (and at that, it was rather unbelievable that he learns to pick locks in a mere two days).

Overall this feels like too little story stretched out for a book in order to make a series. I wasn’t particularly invested in any of the characters, and I didn’t find any of the ideas particularly unique. So although the end isn’t really a conclusion, I find myself disinterested in going any further with the series. I rate this book Neutral.