*Caution: This review contains spoilers. Sorry about that – I usually try not to, but I’m not sure how to review this one without talking about vital plot elements. If you don’t wish to read them, you can skip down to the last paragraph, where I give a final rating.*
“It was a morning like any other, frigid and gray, when Emily Snow took to the streets of Victorian London to earn the pennies that would keep her and her little brother alive for another day. But a chance turning took her through a dark alley, where she witnessed an extraordinary battle between fierce creatures no taller than her knee.
“Emily can see into another world. And once she sees it, she cannot turn away: once engaged, she must join in the latest battle in a war that has been waged for centuries. Doing nothing is not an option, for the Invisible Order—a secret army dedicated to preserving our world against the creatures of Faerie—knows about Emily, and its members will do anything to control her.”
~From the front flap.
Sarah Prineas says this book is “Full of dark wonders and magical delights.”
Patricia C. Wrede claims she “can hardly wait to see what comes next.”
I wonder if they read the same book I did.
What can I say about The Invisible Order? It was… unremarkable. A few moments of true luminosity shine through, but overall, the entire book was just rather “meh.” It seems I’m giving nothing but poor reviews lately, but I suppose that’s just the luck of the draw. And it’s not that The Invisible Order was bad—not by any stretch of the imagination. It just… Well, it didn’t require any stretching of the imagination. It was all quite predictable and ordinary.
Well, not all. (Here’s where we get to the spoilers.) There were a few places where I thought, “Oh, that’s actually rather clever.” For example, Emily meets the Faerie Queen, tours the Seelie court, and is shown a way that she (Emily) might help the faeries, who are apparently dying off without access to their native world.
All of this is pretty standard fare for this sort of book. As a reader, lulled into complacency by the rest of the book, I completely accepted the Queen and her words.
However, the author gives us a bit of a turn when he reveals that the Faerie Queen—usually portrayed as good, or at least amoral—is just as evil as the Dagda, the dark ruler of the Unseelie court. Both rulers are out to retrieve a magical key that will open the door to Faerie and allow them to bring their armies through to destroy the human race and reclaim the Earth for the fey. And neither ruler is above kidnapping, torture, or murder to get what they want.
The second bit that I really liked was Emily’s quest to find the key. I’m always up for a good treasure hunt with secret doors and riddles and clues and mysterious drawings and such, so this portion of the book was the most interesting to me. It didn’t hurt matters either that one of the places Emily has to go to retrieve part of the hidden key was St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a place I’ve actually been.
(On the other hand, I was a little annoyed with the author during this scene, because if he’s ever been to St. Paul’s and climbed the stairs to the Whispering Gallery, he’d know that the stairs are very shallow and wide. Emily runs up these stairs, taking them “two at a time”—which, if she’s running, would be awkward and silly. She’d be more likely to leap three or four steps at a time. *Rolls eyes* Ignore me. I get excited reading about places I’ve been, and if the author does anything that doesn’t fit, it very much annoys me.)
The way that the hunt eventually works out reveals that Emily has apparently set this line of clues up for herself—somehow, she was present two hundred years before and directed the pieces of the key to be hidden in this way.
So those were a few moments where the story shone. However, on the whole, it was more dull than shiny.
There was nothing particularly new to any of the creatures or even the idea of a secret layer of London that harbors hidden fairies. Emily’s character development was wooden at best and neglected more often than not, leaving me with a character who could be just about anyone—I knew little of her hopes or dreams, personality, desires, etc. There was very little to care about, other than the surface tension created by the various sides of the conflict, and discovering who was telling the truth and who lied.
If I had weekly access to a big library, I might eventually read the sequel, The Fire King. However, I don’t have such access, and though I have questions that are unanswered, I don’t think I’ll expend the effort to find this one. My biggest question, honestly, I have my doubts as to whether is ever answered: her name is Emily Snow. The very first chapter, we find her wishing for snow, and this is tied to the end of the book when it actually begins to snow and it—in a way—influences her final decision. I feel like there ought to be some sort of concrete connection between her name and the literal weather, but it was so beside-the-point that I can’t really see it ever going that direction. I could be wrong, of course, and if anyone ever reads the rest of the books in this trilogy and finds that I am—please leave a comment! I’d love to know.
***OK, spoilers over. Those of you who skipped most of the review, this paragraph is for you: I found The Invisible Order to be lackluster and uninspiring—not bad, but nothing special. If you spot it on your library shelf, it’s a decent quick book for a day when you can’t find anything else to read. But don’t expect much, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest buying it. I can only give The Invisible Order two quills. Again, not because it was bad, but because it was just so extremely “meh.”