I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked up Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) by Rachel Caine from the library. I had been wanting to read it for a while but no one I’ve spoken with had ever read it, so I was kind of going in blind with this one. All I knew was that it was set in an alternate history where the Great Library of Alexandria had never burnt down. A book about books?! Yeah, you could say I was pretty interested.
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the 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 Library’s service.
When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a 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…
The plot of this book is kind of all over the place. I’m not really sure what to categorize it because it can fit into so many different genres. I’ve seen it listed as fantasy, dystopian, steampunk, historical fiction, and science fiction. And really, it’s got a little bit of each of those elements in it. I think Caine did a really good job of blending them all together for this story. She was able to take a piece of history and rewrite it to create this fantastical new world. While I felt like I was experiencing a different world, it was also really familiar and I enjoyed that conflicting feeling. Caine’s writing style is also very approachable. It flows really well and draws you into the story. I was really invested in what was occurring the entire book. I enjoyed that were no set good guys vs. evil guys. Everything was very muddled in terms of right and wrong. The supposed bad guys, “Burners”, were actually people who burned books in protestation of The Library’s total control of books, wanting them to be open for anyone and everyone.
Ah, the characters. Diversity is not an issue in this book and I loved that. Yes, the MC is your average English boy but there are so many other different characters. Jess is an interesting MC. I didn’t really have a strong connection with him but I did appreciate his character arc throughout the book. He starts out as being scared of the Library, then he begins to drink the kool-aid so to speak once he joins them, and then by the end has completely done a 180 on his feelings toward them. It was pretty interesting to see and I liked that it developed in a very natural way. I didn’t have a problem believing in his reasons for changing. Also, his interactions with Santi and Scholar Wolfe were fantastic and definitely my favorite scenes in the entire book.
Honestly, the side characters were who really captured my heart. They were all so completely different from one another, each with their own personal stories and distinctive personalities. I appreciate that Caine gave us a little bit of everything. An Arabic girl was the smartest and most caring character in the group, there was a sassy and vain Spaniard, a lovable giant German, and the most surprising and subtly beautiful LGBTQ couple that I’ve ever read about (sorry I’ll Give You the Sun). Seriously, I care more about what happens to all of these lovelies than I do about Jess. But don’t worry, he’s still cool too!
While the writing style, plot line, and characters are all really great, I did have some issues with this book. These are issues that I think can really be explained by the fact it’s the beginning of a series. They’re just your typical first book problems. My biggest problem was with the pacing and world building. I had some trouble in the beginning due to the world building. It was a little slow in getting to the main part of the story and it took a while before I was able to figure out just how this world operated. I didn’t think it was explained very well in the beginning as to why this world is the way it is and how the Library transformed it. Like I kept picturing it being set back in time when the setting is actually in the future! This caused the first 100 pages or so to drag a bit for me. While I was extremely interested in seeing where the story would lead, I felt it took a little too long to get to the point where things were actually happening. But once it hit that sweet spot, I couldn’t put this book down!
Even with its tiny problems, when the sequel, Paper and Fire, is released later this summer, I will definitely be at the bookstore on its release date to purchase it. GIVE ME MORE NOW!
Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars
Have you read Ink and Bone? Is it on your TBR? What are your thoughts on it?