Book Review

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman

Irene and Kai have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist. Or they must risk the wrath of a dangerous villain, in his secret island lair…

As Irene tries to manage a fraught Fae–dragon truce and her overbearing parents, she’s given a hot new mission. The world where she grew up is in danger and only one book can save it.

This is held by Mr Nemo, secretive Fae villain and antique dealer, so Irene and Kai travel to his Caribbean retreat to strike a deal. But in return for the book, they must steal a painting from twenty-first-century Vienna. They’ll join a team of dragons, Fae gamblers and thieves, so their greatest challenge may be one another. And some will kill to protect this painting, which hides an extraordinary secret from a past age.

The Secret Chapter is the sixth instalment in Genevieve Cogan’s fantastic Invisible Library series, and I don’t recommend reading it without first reading books one to five.  In particular, there’s a key event in The Mortal Word which affects this novel, and I really do think that the reader would benefit from having the full context and character history.  You’d also be missing out on some stunningly good books, so plenty of reasons to read them all!

This novel initially feels like a return to the original premise as it begins with Irene and Kai setting out to retrieve a unique copy of a book for the Library.  It soon proves to be anything other than a straightforward mission as they become caught up in a heist, working with a mixed team of Fae and Dragons who – putting it mildly – do not get along. They must work together if they are to succeed in their mission, however, and must put aside their natural distrust of one another. It’s a situation that puts Irene’s not inconsiderable diplomacy skills to the test, and I knew that I was in for an entertaining read as soon as I started it.

The Secret Chapter is strongly evocative of James Bond – something that Cogman herself highlights in her mention of Ian Fleming in the novel.  Spies, a heist, political secrets – there’s even a woman in a bikini, although Cogman’s work is more female-friendly than the Bond novels I’ve read.  And in Mr Nemo, the author has created a superb villain – capable of charm when it suits him, and yet ultimately a bad guy with little pity and / or mercy.  His Caribbean hideout is worthy of any Bond villain, and short of a white cat, he could have stepped out of one of Fleming’s novels. Apart from being Fae, of course. I expect that Cogman had a lot of fun writing this novel, and I know that I had a lot of fun reading it! 

It’s a story that is fast paced and exciting throughout as the team pursue their mission, plagued by problem after problem.  The Secret Chapter has a different vibe to other novels in the series, and it’s an element that I really like about it.  It can be difficult to keep a reader engaged over a series, but Cogman seems to do it with ease.  This novel also begins to address some of the questions that were raised in previous instalments, and while we don’t have all the answers yet, it’s great to see that those points aren’t going to be ignored.  And there’s at least one more novel in the series to go – hopefully more! – so I’m reasonably content to wait for answers.

It’s always a joy to return to this series, and I love how it evolves with each novel.  This instalment adds another potentially devastating twist that has left me needing to know more and one that I expect will have ramifications in future instalments.  Cogman has created a fantastic world, and there’s plenty of breadth and depth to keep it going for some time to come.  I can’t wait to get stuck into The Dark Archive and see what trouble Irene and Kai find themselves in next. 

The Invisible Library series, with links to my reviews:

  1. The Invisible Library
  2. The Masked City
  3. The Burning Page
  4. The Lost Plot
  5. The Mortal Word
  6. The Secret Chapter
  7. The Dark Archive

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