The fifth book in the Invisible Library fantasy series.

Publication year: 2018
Format: print
Publisher: Pan books
Page count: 418

After stealing a book from world where she was first imprisoned for witchcraft and then escaping the dungeons, Irene is expecting a quiet evening with her former apprentice Kai and Peregrine Vale, the greatest detective in this pseudo-Victorian alternate world. But another Librarian has disturbing news and needs Vale’s skills. A very high-ranking dragon has been murdered and it happened at the worst possible place and time. The fundamental forces of this series’ universe, the dragons of order and the Fae of chaos, are trying to get together a peace treaty. Or at least some of them are. There are factions on both sides who would prefer that not to happen or possibly even a full scale war between them. So, the murder investigation is going to be a very delicate matter, involving high-born Fae and dragons who both have very clear ideas about their own importance. Luckily, neither side has any problems with working with a woman. That prejudice is limited to the place, which is 1890s Paris in as neutral a world as could be found. A world which is in balance between chaos and order.

The Library is an intermediary between the two sides and Irene is drafted into the investigation as the “neutral party”. Joining her will be Vale as the investigator and one dragon and one Fae. Naturally, neither wants their own side to be the culprit. To Irene’s horror, she finds a clue which could mean a Librarian is the murderer. A lot of Librarians are on the spot, working with the dragons and the Fae. But can Irene trust even her own superiors?

Like all of the other books in this series, Mortal Word is highly entertaining. However, the focus is on the investigation rather than action, so it feels a bit different from the previous books in the series. Irene has been dreaming of investigating a murder mystery with the world’s greatest detective and at first she’s thrilled but as problems pile up, she finds out that it’s not as fun as she expected it to be.

In the previous book, the Lost Plot, we got to know a bit more about the dragon society and that knowledge is used here. We also get to know more about both the Fae and the dragon society, especially about the people and customs at the very top. Irene and Kai’s relationship changed at the end of the last book and so Kai isn’t here to smooth things out between Irene and the dragons. In fact, Kai isn’t seen much in the book.

Instead, we get Vale and the two representatives. The dragon representative in the investigative team is Mu Dan, a judge-investigator whose position is quite rare in the dragon society because she’s independent rather than serving her family and liege lord. Unfortunately, it also means that she doesn’t have any powerful patrons and so she’s, well, expendable if need be. She’s sensible and practical, for the most part. The Fae representative was a hoot but I won’t spoil it here.

So, the team is very entertaining. Because of the peace talks, the book has a lot of characters but most of them are distinctive enough that I had no trouble telling them apart. Also, the dragons all have Chinese names, and so do their human servants. I also really enjoyed the most powerful Fae who are each a archetype or a stereotype and can compel people to respond to them as if they’re part of the same story.

Irene is put into a very dangerous position and this time she needs to be politically savvy. She also doesn’t know whom she can trust. Keeping Kai away reinforce her sense of being alone.

I think the Mortal Word can be read without reading the series first, but you get the most out of it by starting with the Invisible Library.