Take the idea of Noah Wyle's "The Librarians" TV series, then add in alternate realities, the forces of chaos versus order, the Fae, vampires, werewolves, steampunk, dragons... everything you can think of that might pop up in an alternate world, and there you will have the basic idea of <i>The Invisible Library</i>. The Library collects key books from each of the alternate worlds, sending out the librarians to procure them (much like the librarians bring artifacts back to their library in the TV show). So the librarians are part researchers, part secret agents, part adventurers, and all dedicated to saving books. It seems that by collecting these key books, the library anchors each particular alternate world to the library itself and thereby stabilizes that world allowing a balance between chaos and order to be reached.
There are some fun elements to this series (since this is only the first book of many). When librarians finish their training and are formally bound to the library, they take a use name. Often this name has significance either to the librarian's taste in literature or to how they wish to be perceived. For instance, one of the senior librarians is named Kostchei, an archetypal figure from folklore who is often called "Kostchei the Deathless." (Ego much?) Another, who has replacement limbs that run by clockwork, is called Coppelia (from the ballet with the lifelike dancing doll). Another cool element is the Language of the Library. When librarians use the words from the Language, they can command objects like "lock open" or "pipes burst." That is a handy ability to have when you are traveling into uncertain situations. There are field librarians who are sent out to retrieve books, as well as resident librarians who are stationed in the alternate worlds to maintain contact with the Library and assist field agents. (Sounds a lot like James Bond, doesn't it?)
This first adventure features Irene, a field librarian, and Kai, a trainee whom she is mentoring. They arrive in a world with a rather severe chaos infestation and see vampires and werewolves along with Fae and zeppelins, which reminded me a bit of the Parasol Protectorate books (except for the Fae). They meet a Fae lord, a detective named Vale who seems similar to Sherlock Holmes, and a police investigator named Singh. In this alternate London they visit the British Library, the Natural History Museum, and even a formal ball. Between the glamorous cat burglars, society blackmailers, secret organizations, and Fae - there is plenty of intrigue going on around their mission. Misdirection, double-crosses, cyborg alligators, midair zeppelin battles, it certainly isn't what folks generally picture when they hear the word librarian.
I can't wait for the next book so that I can catch up with the characters and see what new missions they will undertake. A great read for fans of the TV librarians, alternate worlds and steampunk devotees, and book lovers in general.
i read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.