When my local library added this book to their collection in March I was pretty excited. I had read another book by this author and the first of the series, The Invisible Library, a few months ago and adored it. It was one of those rare books for me that I picked up and genuinely couldn’t put down. I read it while making dinner, while folding laundry, and even while sitting at stop lights. So, maybe you can understand that I was excited for it’s followup, The Masked City. Expectations were high and I had opened it to read the first few pages before even leaving the library.
Perhaps my expectations were too high.
The story begins with the same cast of characters that we were familiarized with in The Invisible Library. Irene, our logical and straightforward agent from the Library, and her partner Kai, a dragon masquerading as human (no joke), are in their alternate version of Earth trying to procure a rare book at an underground auction. Afterwards, Kai is kidnapped by parties unknown and Irene embarks on the task of rescuing him from another alternate world.
Sounds fun, right? I like the idea of the heroine doing the rescuing instead of being rescued.
Let me be honest here, I’m having a difficult time coming up with a way to make this review sound interesting. The book took me more than a week to read which is incredibly rare for me. It just didn’t hold my attention and even now the details in my head are a bit fuzzy. The story just didn’t grab me like it did in the first book so pardon if I plod on a bit.
In a daring attempt to rescue Kai, Irene, with the help of one of her enemies, boards a magical train that is embarking for the alternate world where her partner has been taken. The train is full of a species called Fai which are enemies of her and the Library and she must blend in to gain information in the hopes of rescuing her dragon friend. The Fai are an odd bunch as they can manipulate the people and world around them to suit whatever story they wish to find themselves in. Perhaps they want to be a damsel in distress. The damsel Fai would use their power to change the reality around them to conform to that story line. Irene must be cautious to not get caught up in one of their stories.
Irene learns that Kai is being auctioned off in this alternate world to the highest bidder in an attempt to start a war between the Fai and the Dragons. She cannot depend on any help from the Library on her mission and must navigate this strange world and succeed in rescuing her dragon partner not only to stop a war but because it could cost her her position within the Library.
She of course has many mishaps and adventures while trying to accomplish her task but, sadly, none of them drew me in the way they did in the first book of this series. I can’t even quite place why I was so ambivalent to this book. It had adventure, intrigue, danger, and many of the other things I usually love in a good story. There was just something missing that didn’t pull it all together. Irene didn’t feel as in control in this story and that was part of the reason I liked her in the first book. She was unrufflable. In this one, not so much. The location also felt hollow. It is portrayed as Venice in it’s prime but the people and Fai there did not behave or dress indicative of that time period so it broke the spell that Venice would normally weave.
Maybe I’m being too picky. Perhaps it was the beautiful spring weather that was distracting me. How could I resist the sun shine and warm breeze after months of freezing temperatures and high winds? Either way I’m fairly confident I’ll still pick up the next book in this series at some point. I enjoy Cogman’s writing style and the characters, for the most part, are well done. The story in this one just wasn’t there for me.