This week we’re going to try something new. I’ve read a bunch of books in the past few weeks that I enjoyed a lot, but don’t have LGBTQ representation. Since this blog is specifically dedicated to books with LGBTQ representation, I don’t feel like they need their own individual posts. But I enjoyed them, so I want to tell you about them.
So today you get not one but four book reviews in what I’m tentatively calling…
The Rep-less Roundup! (have a suggestion for a better name? Let me know in the comments!)
Let’s jump right in.
The Invisible Library & The Masked City by Genevive Cogman
In The Invisible Library, we meet Librarian Irene just as she’s finishing up a job for The Library. After being undercover for a significant amount of time, she’s finally ready to make her move on the book she’s been sent to retrieve (really steal). After a thrilling chase, she manages to escape back to The Library with the book. Mission accomplished.
The Library, we learn, is an organization that exists outside of worlds, and collects literary works (mostly of fiction) from any and every world in the multiverse. Irene delivers the book to her superior, ready for some well earned time off. Unfortunately, her boss has another job for her right away. This one is very important, though Irene isn’t told why. She is also assigned an apprentice, Kai, who isn’t all he seems.
Their search for the book throws them into the center of the politics of the world they’re visiting, including secret societies, vampire murder, and fae/human conflict. And when Irene receives a message stating that the mysterious rogue librarian Alberich may be after the same book she is, she wonders just what she’s gotten herself into.
The sequel, The Masked City, follows Irene as she is forced to work with disreputable and untrustworthy Fae to rescue Kai, who has been kidnapped.
Someone makes Kai’s disappearance look like he might have just left on his own to go back to his family, but the evidence is very weak and Irene is confident that Kai was actually abducted long before she visits Kai’s family to verify her suspicions.
With the help of detective friend Vale, the untrustworthy Fae Silver, and a request for assistance from Kai’s family who are unable to help directly because of political issues, Irene travels to a world that is the most dangerous she’s ever been to. She is all but alone on her mission to save Kai before he is auctioned off to the highest bidder, or worse.
The concept of The Library is very intriguing. It essentially sits in a dimension all its own, apart from the rest of the universe of possible worlds. The greater mystery of the nature of the library is hinted at several times in the first book, including a reference to that fact that even though the library has windows that look out into streets and other buildings, no librarian has ever seen anyone outside. Nor, it seems, have they ever gone outside themselves. This fact is dropped, then seemingly abandoned. It is definitely a mystery that isn’t solved in the first two books. I hope it is answered later on in the series.
Overall the characters are pretty entertaining though a few did slide so much towards stereotype that they fell a little flat for me. Irene herself is the character I enjoyed the most. She is dedicated wholeheartedly to her job and is not one to slack off. I also find myself comiserating with her annoyance at being propositioned by several men during these first two books when she is in the middle of a very important mission. Irene is very matter of fact about her stance that while she isn’t opposed to a dalliance with an attractive man (and in fact finds herself attracted and considering it), her work comes first. Especially when lives may be at stake. This is a pretty refreshing view, especially when so many books, TV shows, and movies nowadays have characters pausing in the middle of life threatening missions to have a romantic moment.
I originally added The Invisible Library to my To Read list based only on the title and the concept (a mysterious library that collects books from multiple worlds? Yes please!) and I didn’t know going in if there would be any LGBTQ representation. There wasn’t, turns out. But the first two books in this series were still pretty decent reads regardless. I gave each of them 3/5 stars on Goodreads, and plan to read through the rest of the series eventually as the overall premise is still interesting to me even without queer representation
Find this book on: Goodreads
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Lazlo Strange is no one. An orphan of the war, he was raised by monks until, by pure luck, he was offered a position to train as a librarian.
The library offers Lazlo a chance to pursue his dream of learning about he mysterious city of Weep, which disappeared from the world two hundred years ago. He’s been all but obsessed with the city since an old monk first began telling him stories of the city. His fellow librarians and scholars ridicule Lazlo for his obsession with “fairy tales.” But when a delegation from the lost city appears at the library one day, Lazlo is given a chance to find out once and for all if his dreams about the city are true.
On his adventure, Lazlo meets Sarai. One of only five to survive a brutal attack on her home when she was a child, she lives a half life in poverty and hiding, always fearful that the enemy will come back to finish the job. As their friendship grows, so does the tension as Lazlo and Sarai find themselves on opposite sides of the burning embers of a conflict just waiting for a breeze to catch light once more.
I’ve enjoyed Laini Taylor’s writing ever since I read her Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy (which I highly recommend). She mixes fantasy and realism so well that magic seems less fantastical and more real, grounded in reality.
Strange the Dreamer, told from the perspective of two people on opposite sides of the remnants of a conflict, is no different. Lazlo’s rise from an abandoned, impoverished past to librarian is completely believable. There is some luck involved, but mostly it’s hard work and passion.
On the other side, Sarai’s story seems at first glance to be the complete opposite of Lazlo. She and her fellow survivors were born into privilege, only to be thrown down into poverty. But Lazlo and Sarai have more in common than they or the reader may realize. At it’s heart, this book is an exploration of two kindred spirits finding each other on either side of a conflict.
While there isn’t any obvious LGBTQIA representation in this first book, I’ve got my fingers cross that there might be in the sequel.
Find this book on: Goodreads
Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
Note: All my reviews have a risk of spoilers but this one is especially spoilery.
Xhea can see ghosts. But that’s not what makes people avoid her. People avoid her because she doesn’t have magic.
In the distopian world Xhea lives in, magic is currency. Those with a lot of magic live in floating skyscrapers. Those with very little (or none, like Xhea) live on the ground, in the crumbling remnants of a long dead civilization.
Xhea survives by selling her ability to see ghosts. Strangers come to her with their ghosts, hoping for her help in getting rid of them. But unfortunately, her latest ghost is more than she appears.
Shai is a ghost. But there’s a problem. She isn’t actually dead yet. She and her father enlist Xhea’s help to set Shai free from the limbo she is trapped in. Xhea doesn’t find out until it’s too late that the ruling party of one of the floating skyscrapers is after Shai’s ghost and will go to almost any lengths to retrieve her.
This book is great. In a saturated market of dystopian novels feels really refreshing. Xhea is in some ways the typical anti-hero. She lives on the edges of her part of society and even her peers seems to merely tolerate her. She seems to dislike people too (which she and I have in common, lol). To the point that she doesn’t actually want to do the job she does. She does it out of necessity because it’s a skill no one else has and so she can make money from it.
What I really enjoyed was the relationship between Xhea and Shai. They start off a bit at odds, naturally. But the growth in their relationship as it grows into a friendship isn’t at all smooth. They come from completely different worlds, and that causes a lot of misunderstanding and strife between them at times. I’ll admit that more than once I was hoping that the friendship would turn into something more, but the book is great even without the LGBTQ representation. I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel.
Find this book on: Goodreads