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?
I’ve said in my reviews that Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series is one that just gets better and better, and while I hate to repeat myself, I really do think that The Mortal Word is the best one yet! Despite claims I’ve seen that these novels can be read as standalones, I don’t recommend it. So much has happened in the previous four novels that still has relevance – the world building and in particular the characters and their history – that I think that the reader would miss out on a lot of context if they were to start part way through. Also, it’s bloody brilliant, so why wouldn’t you read them all?! Go on, I promise you that it’s worth it!
The Mortal Word wastes no time in getting started as Irene and Vale are called upon to investigate a murder in 1890s Paris, quickly learning that this is no ordinary murder and that a peace treaty between the Dragons and the Fae – two vehemently opposed factions – is at stake. With Dragon vs. Fae trouble having been explored in previous novels, I felt that this would be a wonderful development for the series if it came to pass – something that is by no means guaranteed after the murder of Ren Shun, a Dragon diplomat – and something that opens up a lot of possibilities for future novels. With so much at stake, both Irene and the reader have to question who would try to sabotage the proceedings, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone is a suspect, even the ostensibly neutral Library who are acting as arbitrators in the proceedings.
To maintain some semblance of fairness, Vale and Irene are joined in their investigation by Mu Dan and Silver, representatives of the Dragons and Fae, respectively. This adds some wonderful tension to the narrative as these two enemies are forced to see past their natural antipathy and to at least make some effort at cooperation throughout. And readers of the series will know that Irene and Silver have some history (even if it’s not quite as much history as Silver would like) which adds an extra edge to the proceedings. The team have plenty of motives and suspects to explore, and it falls to Irene and Vale to identify the culprit and hope that the peace treaty doesn’t fall apart as a result. It’s an investigation that keeps the reader engaged throughout as Irene and team end up in plenty of tight spots – occasionally through no fault of their own. And of course, there is a political element, as there are those looking for an acceptable – if not necessarily right – answer to ensure that things go as planned.
Irene is one of my favourite characters and it’s always a joy to meet up with her for another adventure. She’s grown so much over the course of the series so far – developing from her relatively timid beginnings to become a formidable character who has (so far!) been up to any challenge thrown at her. And if you’re wondering where Kai is, don’t worry – he’s very much present, albeit in a slightly different role to the one he’s taken in the previous novels. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
The Invisible Library series, with links to my reviews: