It’s time for another Thursday book review! Picked yet another book about books. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s just something about a book about books. I can’t resist. It’s a book love affair.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine is the first book in The Great Library series. This is a fantasy novel that takes what if, to the extreme. What if the Library of Alexandria never burnt down and instead became a powerhouse player in all aspects of society? We’d get a world where knowledge is hoarded and parceled out at the discretion of a few.
The Great Library is the most powerful entity in the world. It has footholds in every major city and with the help of Alchemy, controls the flow of knowledge. The Library makes it their mission to collect all original manuscripts. Being caught with an original books is illegal.
In steps street smart and bookish Jess, whose family runs a black market book smuggling ring. Since he was ten, Jess has been running books–selling them to collectors and even ink eaters. At sixteen Jess has no love for the family business, whereas his twin brother, Brendan, is a natural cutthroat. Jess believes in the library and what it does. Little does he know the extent of the Library’s dark deeds.
Instead of running the family business, Jess is sent to the library’s training program to become a spy. In Alexandria, Jess meets a diverse group of initiates and friendships bloom, despite competing almost Hunger Game style to fill one of six slots. As the field of competitors narrows, Jess’ faith in the Library is shaken. What can Jess do when he can’t go home and is afraid to move forward?
This books got a lot going on. Teens competing with each other through some very intense obstacles; family drama; war and political upheaval; a big brother society with rebels who burn books; in-fighting within the library; magic in the form of alchemy; and books, oh so many books. Oh, don’t forget romance and betrayal! You’d think with so many parts, the book would be a bit overwhelming but it wasn’t. Each of these plot details meshed and meshed well. I only hope this continues in subsequent books.
I thought the relationship building was… good. I liked the dynamic between the whole group of students, even if I expected more drama from 20+ men and women–from diverse backgrounds–living together and competing. I loved the tortured Scholar Wolfe and the Captain. And I can’t wait to see what happens between Jess and his deliciously evil twin.
I sort of, but not really, had a problem with the many modern concepts that are only possible through “alchemy…” Caine makes a point to say that alchemy is distinctly different from magic and yet it feels like magic. Imagine a world where Alchemists, who can pretty much do anything, takes the place of electronic technology. We get a world that feels familiar but is very different. I think I just want to see more of the Alchemists and how they do what they do. Something that marks the different between–POOF–magic and alchemy. Maybe in the next book.
Regardless of the flaws, this book is worth a read for the world building alone. What a neat concept and so well done. Here’s hoping that the sequel can handle all the built up intrigue and a plot line with increasing complexity.
That’s all for now!