Series: The Great Library #2
Published by Allison & Busby on July 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…
With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.
Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.
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 Library’s deadly automata 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, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…
This review is for Paper and Fire, the second book in Rachel Caine’s Great Library series. It contains spoilers for the first book, Ink and Bone. You can listen to Philippa’s and my thoughts about Ink and Bone in our joint review.
In 2025, the Library of Alexandria controls everything, but especially the storage and trade of original paper books. The flow of knowledge to the populace is tightly controlled through blanks – e-book-like devices controlled by alchemy. Jess and his friends are now aware of just how tightly the Library is suppressing heretical knowledge, and when Jess uncovers information that makes him think that their friend Thomas might still be alive and being held by the Library, he and his companions Glain, Khalila, Dario and Scholars Wolfe and Santi hatch a plot to rescue him.
I was really looking forward to reading more about this world of the Great Library. Ink and Bone had such wonderful world-building, and with the added bonus of characters who loved books as much as the rest of us do, it was a really enjoyable alternate-future world with a steampunk feeling.
Unfortunately, the first half of this one was spent in the military training academy, and it took them almost the whole story to get out of Alexandria. There are some mild skirmishes before that, but they don’t really drive the story forward, and the sections where Morgan appears feel like they might have been shoved in as an afterthought. The not-quite-romance between Dario and Khalila was more interesting to me than Jess and Morgan trying to light their dull spark.
The ending was suitably epic, though, and I might have cried a little in the section with the Black Archive. With the way book three is heading, each of these books has quite a separate focus – looks like we’re finally in for some revolution in book three. I just hope the pace picks up and we get to see more of this amazing world.