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The Secret Chapter is the sixth book in Genevieve Cogman’s delightful Invisible Library series, which follows the adventures of Librarian Irene Winters. Irene is an agent of the Library—the one that exists outside of time and space, where its vast collection of books from alternate worlds maintains balance throughout the multiverse.

Although this organization is known for its neutrality (at least, to the few aware of its existence), its Librarians also have a reputation for being a bit nefarious (again, to the few aware of their existence). Preventing a world from descending too far into chaos or order is a critical task that requires a book from that specific world—the more unique it is to that world, the better. But owners of uncommon versions with secret chapters and the like aren’t always willing to part with them, so Librarians are trained as spies and thieves for the good of the worlds. Those who have seen firsthand a Librarian’s proficiency with the Language, which allows them to use carefully crafted words to alter reality, tend to be even more suspicious of them: whether they believe the Language to be sorcery, witchcraft, or just plain old trickery.

These rumors of Librarians’ special skills work in Irene’s favor when a world she holds dear is in danger in The Secret Chapter. The book that would save it belongs to the mysterious Mr. Nemo, a criminal collector presiding over his own personal villain lair on a private Caribbean island, and he’s willing to give it to her: if she and her colleague will join the team he’s assembled to steal a 368-square-foot painting from a museum with top-notch security. (And if their heist is successful and they bring the artwork back to him, of course.)

Irene doesn’t exactly have a choice in the matter: even if she didn’t desperately need this particular book, the first potential team member to refuse Mr. Nemo’s “offer” is immediately fed to the sharks. But getting a crew composed of four Fae, two dragons, and one Librarian to work together may be even more impossible than actually absconding with the gargantuan artwork. The Fae and dragons distrust each other as always, no one trusts Irene besides her dragon associate, the two dragons loathe each other, and it’s not like any of them have a good reason to trust strangers who were not exactly selected for being honest, law-abiding types…

The Invisible Library series is incredibly fun and especially well suited to bibliophiles with a fondness for genre fiction. Although it is light on character development, the narrative and dialogue add some personality, and I love Irene’s bookish bent. I also appreciate that she is a competent, quick-thinking protagonist quite adept at getting herself out of zany situations—which comes in handy as a book thief/spy/alternate world traveler.

As much as I enjoyed the first four books in this series, I did feel that the fifth book (The Mortal Word) was disappointing in comparison: the setting was generic, and it was lacking much of the banter and high jinks that make this series entertaining. Though I didn’t think the voice and dialogue were quite as strong as I recall them being in the first four books, I did think The Secret Chapter was superior to the previous installment. Irene is in her element with all the excitement of visits to a secret villain lair in a nineteen-eighties-era world’s Caribbean, run-ins with criminals and dragons, and (of course) the big art heist in an alternate early twenty-first-century world’s Vienna.

In addition to being filled with daring exploits, The Secret Chapter has themes revolving around the people and experiences who shape one into the person they are. We finally meet Irene’s parents and see firsthand that their relationship with her is somewhat strained and distant, and there’s also a little reflection on how she became the Librarian she is because of their influence, as well as discussion of the importance of her time attending school on the world she’s hoping to save. We also learn more about Kai’s draconic family and some of their secrets, and some intriguing mysteries about the history of dragons arise.

A minor issue I’ve had with the series more recently is that the last couple of installments have been closer to standalone adventures than books building upon threads from earlier books. Although I do wish that we knew a little more about that revelation from the end of book three by this point, The Secret Chapter did seem less standalone. It keeps being hinted that there’s more to the Library than Irene knows, and with this book also showing that there is more to the dragons’ past than is commonly known, I’m hoping that means the major forces in this universe will start being explored more. I don’t want all the answers immediately, of course, but I would like there to be less hinting and more revealing—even if that’s just little bits of new information to theorize about, as in this novel, rather than solid answers.

The Secret Chapter is another diverting tale in the Invisible Library series. Although I didn’t think it had quite the same charm as the first four books in the series, it’s a better book than the previous installment that left me pondering the puzzle of dragons—and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in Irene’s saga!

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from The Secret Chapter

Reviews of the Previous Books in the Invisible Library Series:

  1. The Invisible Library
  2. The Masked City
  3. The Burning Page
  4. The Lost Plot
  5. The Mortal Word