When we first meet our intrepid hero, Irene, she is a servant at a posh boys school in — well, it feels like a British boarding school, but I'm not sure where. Or when. I don't know if Irene even knows. All she knows is that she must get her hands on a particular book, and it won't be easy. You see, Irene is a Librarian, and that is her job. She cannot fail. And this time, she doesn't.
Fast forward to — well, I'm not sure when. Irene is in The Library when she receives her assignment, as well as an assistant, a Librarian-in-training named Kai. There's something about him she just can't put her finger on... but an assignment is an assignment, and the only way a Librarian-in-training can truly train is on the job. There are other, older, and wiser minds at work, and they know what they're doing.
Or do they?
Irene is an interesting Librarian, who has been born into the job. She knows no other life, and she is ready for anything — even if it's conniving rogue Librarian and her nemesis. Send her to what appears to be a version of Victorian England with an untrained assistant to face a dead Vampire, a nosy Fairie, and a whip-smart detective to retrieve a book, and she's on the case. Only, when things get tough, when the crocodiles enter the ballroom or she's holding sk—er, something she shouldn't, she improvises with her lifetime of experience and learns to let go, to trust, and to get the job done in a way she's never attempted.
This first book in the trilogy is fast-paced and exciting. The information is revealed in good time, to the proper people, under the correct circumstances. There are moments when it's absurd, but the absurdity not only makes sense, but belongs there. There are moments when I held my breath, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. There are moments when all I can think is, "I want to be a Librarian!"
For me, it's all about the characters. Irene, Kai, Vale, and all the others, from the butlers to the cabbies, are Characters with a capital C. They are real, and interesting, and challenging, and complex, and likable (but not too). The author's background in role-playing games help create an adventure and world extraordinaire.
Still not convinced? Think Jasper Fforde. Think Erin Morganstern. Think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Think Karen Marie Moning. If that's not enough to convince you, honestly, do you even read?
This may be one of my favorite books of the year, so my recommendation may be a little biased. Oh, who cares — read this book, and the sequels, promptly, and let me know what you think!