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Urskuul’s Reading Circle: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

Everyone likes libraries, don’t they? They’re normally fair-sized buildings which are chock-full of books. And the main rule that guides most libraries? Other than the normal ones. You know like:

– Don’t steal the books.
– Don’t burn down the library.
– Don’t stage an over-elaborate murder designed to implicate one of your political rivals and ruin his or her career.

The main rule, it’s “Be Quiet”. A simple one to follow, you’d think. But almost impossible for the rest of the world to manage.

library by jungpark

You can talk in low voices that don’t disturb the other patrons worshipping the books in peaceful contemplation. You want to chat to people and socialise? Go to a coffee shop. Libraries are supposed to be a place for people to get respite from the everyday hubbub, so don’t make us suffer it there as well.

Summoner Library by asuka111Okay, yes. Occasionally there are disturbances. A large concentration of words do have a habit of warping reality. I’ve seen sentient books escape their chains and attack passerbys. I’ve seen someone accidentally open a portal into the outer reaches of space; I imagine their corpse is still spinning out there, a mystery waiting for future space travellers when they discover it. I’ve even seen a monkey wandering around, picking up books and taking them back to wherever he came from. Though he didn’t appreciate being called a monkey. I think I still have the bump on my head, not to mention the occasional traumatic flashback brought on by hearing the word “Ook”.

Those minor incidents aside though, I rarely feel more at home than when at a library. There’s something about a large collection of books that relaxes me. It’s why I wanted Urskuul’s Reading Circle to have their meetings in the library. Unfortunately, they wanted money from us to rent the room, and it’s much cheaper to simply break into someone’s house who is on holiday and use that instead.

The Lost Plot (cover)So, why am I talking about libraries? Because, for the latest meeting, we had the distinct pleasure of reading Genevieve Cogman’s The Lost Plot, the latest in her Invisible Library series.

Have you read any of the previous books? There are three: The Invisible Library, The Masked City, and The Burning Plot. To give you a brief run-down of what has gone before is somewhat necessary, but I will attempt to avoid anything that would give away too much of the first three.

The Library appears to be a gigantic (potentially endless) place wherein nearly all the books across all the Universes are collected and saved, to ensure none of them are lost forever. These involves a collection of operatives whose sole purpose is to find these missing volumes from all the different multiverses and retrieve them for the library. Why not? If you knew there was a chance to read the missing works that disappeared when the Great Library of Alexandria burned down, or the missing Shakespeare plays (Cardenio and Love’s Labour’s Won), would you not want to seize it? Well, so would these Library spies.

The series follows Irene Winters and the various missions she gets sent upon to retrieve such books. Normally in conjunction with Kai (her faithful assistant who happens to be a dragon, and as mentioned in a previous Reading Circle newsletter, we all knows books are vastly improved by the presence of a dragon) and her ally Peregrine Vale, a detective on the world in which she tends to live upon as Librarian-in-residence.

Dragon Psychosis by Scott JohnsonThe multiverse worlds tend to range from the more Lawful (and logical worlds) to the Chaotic ones which include magic, werewolves and vampires wandering about. These worlds tend to form the basis of a conflict between two powers, the Dragons (who reside in the more lawful worlds) and the Fae (the chaotic ones, obviously). It’s always nice to have two opposing forces in a conflict, rather than the human ones that tend to take place between two sides that are all too similar in many ways and fighting over things that probably aren’t necessary if they could just talk to one another in a sensible fashion.

The Fae tend to get caught up in dramatic stories (and have to play their part in ensuring there are appropriate betrayals, political intrigue and other such occurrences to keep the story interesting). The previous stories have tended to focus on Irene being drawn into the Fae’s machinations and how she has managed to deal with them whilst trying to retrieve the particular book (or rescue her assistant Kai after he was dragon-napped). She also has to deal with a rogue Librarian known as Alberich who appears to be a bad sort, to put it lightly.

The Library is officially neutral in the conflict and tries to avoid being drawn in and supporting one or the other, though Irene’s involvement has tended to be working against the Fae who have generally been the ones causing all the trouble. Librarian operatives have a power known as the Language of the Library, which means if they speak in Bold things such as “Door, Unlock”, then this causes doors to unlock and the like. A bit like one of those Alexa or Google devices that can control everything around your home. But a bit better than dimming the lights, ordering toilet paper, or telling you where to find a coffee shop.

Dragons in the Archives by Michael KomarckThe Lost Plot sees a change. This time around, the Fae play little part at all. It is the Dragons who are driving this story. One of their Ministers, Zhao, has passed away. Normally the Dragons would take their time in appointing a replacement, but due to certain time constraints (an upcoming Paris Summit), there’s a bit of a race between two candidates to replace him. These two have been tasked with finding a particular lost book with the winner becoming the new minister. And the loser? Appears that they will get a funeral. And who are the experts on finding books? The Librarians.

Not that the Librarians are allowed to help. They have to remain neutral. And the Dragons understand that and definitely wouldn’t try to involve them. Except, you know, for some creatures winning is more important than playing by the rules…

Thus, Irene is drawn into this race on a higher-lawful world and has to try and locate the book whilst also avoiding the Library from appearing to be aiding the Dragons and thus losing their Neutrality status. Oh, and also avoid being killed by the Dragons who are searching for the book at the same time.

Sound interesting? The Reading Circle certainly thought it was, and so we have to recommend that you search out Cogman’s series and read them all (bit easier if you know the back story rather than jump in straight with The Lost Plot). Go and give it a try.

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Manticore by Mat Gimeno

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Many thanks all!

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