Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) – Rachel Caine

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Summary:

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.…

Review:

Ink and Bone is mostly an adult-feeling fantasy, but with a structural set-up and age-appropriate protagonist that justifies the YA label

The book is set in the near future: access to books is heavily controlled. Information is available to the public, but by transmitting said data via Codex (especially a magic-driven tablet) they control what information goes out. Technology in this world is a mixed bag: they seem to have to bullet trains, but no printing presses. It’s a world that I’m not sure entirely works – there’s no specific mention of what actually gets censored, the bigger point seems to be control for the sake of control and the power of the Library – but works well enough to support the book because of the simple implications of what such system can have. There’s also a Big Brother vibe going on here, but it’s less commentary and more just kind of implicit and just there. Likewise, the theme of a Big Powerful Institution being corrupt is hardly a new one, but it’s dealt with rather well here, even though the implications for the sequels do make me weary – we’ve seen a LOT of YA go down this path, but rarely does it end well.

There is a lot to like here: Jess is a likable protagonist, the romance – when it develops – is well done and feels real and kind of a gut punch with how it plays out, death is a visitor in this series as well, and there’s a nice surprise in an unexpected – and yet totally believable gay couple where the only surprise is that there a couple, nary an eye is blinked because they are men.

I think this book started out strong and stayed that way for the first 80% or so. As the book began to wound down, it began to lose some its luster for me, because it does feel like what originality it did have gone for it is going to be lost by the next book.

Still, I think this is a solid read and one of the better YA fantasies I’ve read lately, so if you’re looking for something to add to your TBR pile, I can definitely recommend this.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: July 7th

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