A fun fantasy adventure which improves on the first installment. 3.5/5 stars.
I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher (Pan Macmillan) via NetGalley in return of an honest review.
The blurb: 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.
I read The Invisible Library (Book 1) in early 2015. On the whole I found it enjoyable, if over-ambitious and a little confused. The writing was good and I expected the sequel to improve on the first installment now the author had got a lot of the complex world-building detail out of the way. And I was right.
This series is definitely for existing fans of fantasy adventures. It’s crammed full of magic, fae, dragons, steampunk, alternate worlds… However, The Masked City is better than The Invisible Library because the plot is more streamlined and we are already familiar with most of the major players. In the highly-capable hands of Irene, we skip between the Library and other worlds easily, taking all orders of dragons and fae in our stride. In this sense, I would recommend reading The Invisible Library before The Masked City. For although Cogman does a good job delivering subtle and necessary reminders of the key events in Book 1, the action in Book 2 kicks in straight away and a reader completely new to the series could easily get lost.
Speaking of action, it rarely lets up and this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the plot rattles along at a tremendous and entertaining pace. We lurch from disguise to negotiation to fight to near-death escape with little room to breathe. The downside of this is that I still don’t feel I’ve had the chance to connect with any of the characters. Plot takes precedence and while Irene and her friends are admirable, resourceful and brave, I have yet to find any of them truly sympathetic. This is a problem because, for me, character is what makes a book remarkable and memorable rather than merely a diverting but ultimately disposable way to spend a few hours. Perhaps some chapters from another character’s point of view would have calmed the vertiginous pace at points, giving us a break before another action-packed episode and greater character insight?
Other plus points include: the notable lack of a central romance (I don’t mind a sprinkling of romance, but I get tired of seeing it as the core of fantasy stories); an intelligent, strong and resourceful heroine who isn’t an invulnerable ninja; and the confident, unobtrusive writing which refuses to draw attention to itself, instead letting the action take centre-stage.
Overall: I recommend The Masked City for fantasy fiction fans who enjoyed The Invisible Library and are looking for an entertaining and fast-paced adventure romp with a strong central heroine and a refreshing absence of romance.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for giving me an e-copy of The Masked City via NetGalley in return for an honest review.