Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire (The Great Library Books #1-2)

In an exhilarating new series, Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.

Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine, is the first novel in the Great Library series. Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library of Alexandria is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Great Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly--but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell of England believes in the value of the Great Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Great Library’s service. When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a mechanical device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life. And soon both heretics and books will burn...

Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine, is the second novel in the Great Library series. Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Great Library’s deadly automata -- alchemy-driven robotic guardians who ruthlessly eliminate threats--and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London. But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Great Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control.

Since I enjoyed reading Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series, I was delighted to hear about this new dystopian series. The Great Library has immense power over the distribution of knowledge in the world. Books are precious like currency, and the wrong information can get someone branded as a heretic and executed for treason. The Great Library acts as an authoritarian government where free speech is expressly forbidden. Those who possess powerful alchemical powers are locked away as slaves to do the Great Library's bidding. Any innovations that threaten to weaken or topple the Great Library's power are hidden away so that the world can never challenge its authority. The protagonist, Jess Brightwell, is an inquisitive and street-smart teen boy who loves reading but knows how to defend himself given his experience as a thief for his family's black market business. But Jess will learn that the Great Library isn't as merciful to those who challenge the status quo. As for age range, these books are definitely for teens (arguably 18 and over for the amount of violence and political machinations alone). The plot will test the teens' friendships and survival in the darkness where any possession of secrets could cost their lives.

Stay tuned for the next review on The Great Library series, Ash and Quill (Book 3) and Smoke and Iron (Book 4).

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