Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you NAL for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: YA historical fantasy.
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…
Well! This one was a nice surprise! You can never be sure what you’ll get when you start a new series – even though Ink and Bone got some highly favourable reviews from blogs I follow – so I was very happy that it turned out so well.
Ink and Bone is an imaginative historical fantasy set in a world where the Library (of Alexandria) rules in the sense that it controls all knowledge and learning. The idea of a world where books aren’t readily available gives every bookworm the creeps, I’d bet, but this was done really well – the knowledge is there, just distributed and parcelled out according to who you are. The world is really complex – and I liked the addition of steampunk elements like the scary automatons the Library employs to protect its books and premises.
The story follows Jess, the son of a London book smuggler, who is on his way to become a scholar at the Library. His training is to be completed in Alexandria, where he meets other hopeful young people. I love every kind of school story involving magic (hello, Harry Potter), so I was excited, at first, when I figured out where Jess would be going, and disappointed when his training didn’t involve much magic at all.
But the complex relationships between the students, their mentor, and the political intrigues soon overshadowed any disappointment I might have felt. The writing itself (or maybe the pacing?) might have been somewhat stilted in the first third of the book but the story picked up when I came to the halfway mark – and I read the last 40% of the book in one sitting, which is unusual for me these days.
As more and more dirty workings inside the Library were uncovered, I was pulled into the story and found myself rooting for Jess and his friends. The fact that the seemingly pointless academic tests they had been subjected to in Alexandria were replaced by some very real field experience didn’t hurt the pacing, either. I loved the fact that Jess and his fellow characters were complex and not at all morally white – I never like perfect characters and Caine wrote some really great gray souls.
Overall, I’m very excited to get to Paper and Fire, which has been published in July this year. I haven’t read any of Caine’s books previously, though she seems to have published quite a few (including some vampire UF!). I’ll have to check those out as well.
Have you read Ink and Bone? What did you think?
Can you imagine a society where owning original books is punishable by death? O_o
I’d love to hear from you! :)