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.
Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library was a fun novel that provided an excellent start to an exciting new series and The Masked City continued that strong form, doing what sequels do best, working just as well on its own as a continuation as the same story thread, plunging us back into a world that once again reminds me of a combination between Doctor Who and TNT’s wonderfully fun The Librarians series, a comparison that I made in my review of the first book and seems more present here.
The book sees Irene working undercover in an alternate reality London however she soon learns that her assistant Kai has been plunged into trouble of his own, kidnapped by the fae. To make matters worse Kai’s life isn’t the only one at stake, and the repercussions could have a knock on effect for entire worlds thanks to his heritage. It means a trip to Venice for Irene, but not the Venice that you and I are familiar with. It’s a dark one where the Carnival is always happening, and here she will be forced to barter and fight her way to rescue Kai. It’s a basic premise that plunges the reader into the wonderful concept of Cogman’s world, and it’s great to see it executed so well.
The characters are as fun as ever and Kai and Irene are handled pretty well once again. They work well and are fun and easy to enjoy, with the main focus on Irene being a strong one as Kai is pushed to the side for obvious reasons. Silver and Vale are also interesting alternatives to Kai’s character, and they keep the book fresh and exciting. It’s nice to see that Cogman almost tackles her own version of Sherlock Holmes with Vale, and gives him a famous status to boot.
The world building is one of the main draws of this series though and it really works. The magic fits strongly within the world and never feels too overpowered or Deus-Ex Machina-ery, and Irene’s ways to use it are constantly entertaining. The magic fits into the world and fits itself at home within the rich development of the fae, as well as the fascinating backdrop of the alternate Venice provides a superb setting for the book and certainly makes me wish that I had the chance to read more fantasy novels were set on continental Europe, as there is plenty of potential to explore. (If you think of any good Venice-set fantasy books or just European-fantasy inspired based books in general, let me know! I’d love to read them).
The Masked City is a book that turns the “lead male rescuing the female” trope on its head by having the woman doing the rescuing, and as a result, thanks to the fun and overall enjoyment factor that this book provides, it is a worthy follow up that doesn’t lose steam. I will be keeping an eye out for the next novel in The Invisible Library series – The Burning Page, for sure, and you should be, as well. Like V.E. Schwab’s most recent offering, this is an alternate-world exploring sequel that delivers.