Genevieve Cogman

The Mortal Word

Author: Genevieve Cogman | Publisher: Pan Books

A corrupt countess. A spy in danger. And an assassin at large.

Peace talks are always tricky . . . especially when a key diplomat gets stabbed. This murder rudely interrupts a top-secret summit between the warring dragons and Fae, so Librarian-spy Irene is summoned to investigate. In a version of 1890s Paris, Irene and her detective friend Vale must track down the killer – before either the peace negotiations or the city go up in flames.

Accusations fly thick and fast. Irene soon finds herself in the seedy depths of the Parisian underworld on the trail of a notoriously warlike Fae, the Blood Countess. However, the evidence against the Countess is circumstantial. Could the assassin – or assassins – be closer than anyone suspects?

The Mortal Word arrived yesterday, and I could not have been more excited! I loved the rest of The Invisible Library series, so I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. And, don’t worry, I did a quick scout of the author’s blog to find out if this is the last one (read: whether I need to mentally prepare myself to say goodbye), and she’s in the process of writing book six. Phew!

Just FYI, I actually checked. I know… I’m obsessive… No judgement… But I commented on the author’s blog, and she was kind enough to reply (I fangirled a tiny bit). There’s going to be at least 3 more books! Happy days!

In The Mortal Word we see the return of all three major characters: Irene, Kai, and Vale. The previous book, The Lost Plot, focused solely on Irene and Kai, and, while I didn’t especially miss Vale, it was nice to see the gang come back together. We also see the brief return of Bradamant, who was personally one of my favourite characters in the previous books. She’s just so damn devious! In fact, with a full cast of major and supporting characters from previous books, including Lord Silver and Kai’s uncle, the dragon king, it felt like a reunion of sorts.

With every book in this series, it feels like the author grows in confidence. Midway through The Mortal Word there’s a sudden, and short-lived, switch in point of view, from Irene to Vale. It shouldn’t have worked. It should have felt jarring. But the worldbuilding and characters are so well-embedded with the reader at this point, and it was so deliberately necessary, that it actually ended up being an interesting diversion. I can’t see many authors having the confidence to use that technique, in that way – and even fewer would have the skill to pull it off.

The Mortal Word is somewhat longer than previous books in the series, which allows the author the scope for greater worldbuilding. I loved the additional detail. The worldbuilding and the elegance of the descriptive language is one of the great strengths of The Invisible Library series – more can only be better… And, to be honest, I had begun to wonder whether Librarians actually required sustenance. Irene never seemed to eat anything… It was making me hungry reading it! Like, it’s been three days, love, you must want a sandwich or something… I’m joking (sort of), but was nice to see a bit more attention to paid to those ordinary elements of “real life”. They do help solidify a picture and develop the world for the reader.

The plot itself is, as you’ve come to expect from the series, a fast-paced, twisty-turn-y mystery with plenty of internal tension and suspense, and a few big surprises.

Without giving away any endings, I will say that while a carefully nuanced balance of good and evil is maintained between the characters on all sides, fae, human, and dragon, I think the dragons come off the worse in most of the books. The dragons just generally seem the more callous, vain, and, warlike of the factions. The fae, while equally imperfect, are somehow just more likeable… It’s probably natural. Where dragons represent forces of order, and the fae chaos, perhaps it is impossible for a storyteller to prefer order over the more creative chaos?

My only disappointment was that while Irene’s adoptive parents were, again, brought into the story peripherally, they failed to make an appearance. In The Mortal Word, they’re being held as captives by one side, are on the scene, so to speak, and yet Irene doesn’t even attempt to see them. I understand that the characters have a potentially world-ending crisis on their hands, but wouldn’t Irene at least want to clap eyes on them? Check they’re alright when things, inevitably, go somewhat pear-shaped? I didn’t quite “buy” that aspect of the story.

All in all, I adored The Mortal Word. The series is definitely only getting better and I cannot wait for the next book!

5 Archimedes

14 thoughts on “The Mortal Word”

  1. I’ve never heard of this series, but it sounds really good! I love fantasy books about a librarians who travel throughout time and different versions of the world. Great review! It looks really interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha not weird at all. Personally, I tend not to like multiple perspectives… So I like to know if a book has them. The Invisible Library series is all single perspective, third person omniscient narrator. It makes a one chapter switch in this book from the usual character of focus, to another character. Which really, really shouldn’t work… But doesn’t actually feel too weird

    Liked by 1 person

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