YA Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (*****)

Review Time

ink and bone
The Great Library #1  352 Pages  YA (Mature)
TasCH’s Rating: 5 stars
Published: July 7th, 2015

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 he 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.…

“And so the very institution we thought would bring the most light to the world has instead drowned it in shadows, and claimed that shadow as full sun.
And we, poor blind creatures, have believed the lie.”

Thank you Rachel Caine, for giving us another story to look forward too. After you ended/took away Morganville Vampires I was a tad upset with you (how could you take away Claire? MYRNIN? THE TOWN OF CRAZIES?) but now we are all good. No more grudges, since you went ahead and created another addictive tale that is even more intricate and amazing than Morganville was at its very beginning.

BOOKS! Libraries!! Wait, the library is bad? But it’s a library! What? How? Who? Book burners? They must burn themselves! Wait, they may have a point? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS!?

This is the kind of story that anything could happen, and a script will not necessarily be followed to keep people happy. Some characters might die, some you will hate and some you will love. It keeps you on edge, and ain’t that beautiful? It is also a story who has no clear good or bad guy, every entity has their own twisted beliefs and I found myself not agreeing with any of the groups wholeheartedly because they both were “wrong” in one way or another.

The story engrosses you, and it is all about readers and libraries and magic (alchemy, same dif) so the setting pulls you in, and the characters make you stay. Jess is a boy with a passions for books, reading, and learning. He was born into a family of book smugglers so he always had the privilege of having original books instead of just “blanks” (which are a kind of tablet sort of book that powers through alchemy instead of technology and it is solely for reading original books) a privilege that could get his entire family killed. He is sent to the library to become a scholar so he can help his family further the business of smuggling, but soon enough it becomes quite clear that becoming a spy for his family is easier said than done. First he is going to have to secure a spot within the library’s circle, and to do this he has to compete with some of the most brilliant minds of his generation.

Other than Jess there are a bunch of characters competing for six spots in the library, some of them more memorable than others. What I love about Rachel Caine’s work is that’s she always pays close attention to her side characters, so much so that you start to crave seeing their story as well as the MC’s (and sometimes their story seems even more interesting). I would love short novellas from Khalila (the brithest girl of their year), Dario (the snob roommate), Thomas (the sweetest most brilliant inventor), Morgan (she has thick skin this one, she can weather anything), and even Glain (who [she] is more of a mystery than every other character). They all have intricate backstories I can’t wait to get into further.

“Pharaoh has also heard your words regarding the unaccompanied admission of females to this sacred space of Serapeum [a library], and in his divine wisdom refuses this argument, for women must be instructed by the more developed minds of men to ensure they do not wrongly interpret the riches that the Library offers. For a perversion of knowledge is surely worse than a lack of it.
Pharaoh and the gods will grant eternal favor and protection to this great work.

A handwritten annotation to the letter, in the hand of Callimachus.

His divine wisdom can kiss my common arse. We blind and hobble half of the world through such ignorance, and I will not have it. Women shall study at the Serapeum as they might be inclined. Let him execute me if he wishes, but I have seen enough of minds wasted in this world. I have a daughter.
My daughter will learn.”

The setting is also a mix of both the past and the future. They have advanced some of their practices, like having “blanks”, incredibly fast trains, and ways to teleport, all done through alchemy, but in every other way the setting is very medieval. It is also set right smack in the middle of a war between London and the Welsh, which comes into play in more ways than one.

A lot of the argument of “blanks” and having originals mirrors our current cultural argument of having an e-copy versus a hard copy in our hands. It both reflects the ups and downs of both mediums, in a stylish and entertaining way. It shows rather than tells you the differences which is always more fun. I have to agree with our MC, and would always rather have an original instead of a “blank”. It just feels different, and I can always get more engrossed in an original.

One facet that I think should be further explored is what happens to writers and their work? Do they have to write their books directly into “blanks”? Do they relinquish any ownership of their work to the library? Are there even any work of frivolous fiction, or just plain fiction? Would 50 Shades of Grey survive in a world like this? Probably not.

At the end of Ink and Bone our MC finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, with almost no hope. It is a grim ending, but also fitting. One thing’s for sure, it makes the reader crave for the sequel. I want it so badly, and I want it in hardcopy, not in “blank” mode.


5 thoughts on “YA Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (*****)

    1. Thank you! Her books are very addictive, and she has a series with over 10 books (Morganville Vampires) and it is so very worth it, every single one. Let me know if you read it, and where you stand on Shane (I love to hate him).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Weather Warden series is quite good too, although it went on maybe longer than it should. Outcast Season is better, although I think it gave me nightmares at times. (I don’t have nightmares, so I exaggerate here, but it did give me some unpleasantmares.)


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