Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (Book 1 in The Great Library Series)

Thank you Berkley Publishing for sending me a copy of Ink and Bone in exchange for an honest review. (4/5 stars)

Originally I wanted to rate this book 3 or 3.5 stars.  It started off a bit confusing to me in terms of how things worked, the items, and the world. As the story went on though it quickly became a 4 star read.  And as the characters and world developed and more of the inner deceptions of the library were shown, I got hooked.

The truth was what the library wanted it to be.

Goodreads Synopsis:

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…

My Experience:

A book, about books, yea I’m interested!  The book starts off in the future in year 2025 and the Great Library of Alexandria has never been destroyed but in fact governs all the knowledge to the masses.  I was drawn in by the main character Jess right away.  Growing up in a family of cutters (people who smuggle and run illegal books) gave the ground work of what exactly this futuristic world was like and how limited peoples access to original books are.  It made me question why people didn’t have books and what exactly did the Library do.  What was so bad that burners (people who yes, burned books) were so persistent in their cause and fighting the library? The premise was so intriguing that I knew I needed to keep reading.

That said I do feel as though the first 100 pages leave something to be desired, while I was intrigued I was also very confused.  There was very little offered in way of explanation, of exactly what the codex was, the time period seemed a little off, and how some of the world worked.  Had there been a bit more of an explanation for things in the beginning and less confusion I wouldn’t have started off slightly doubting the book.  I also think with all the steampunk aspects of this book, why is it set in the future?  It seems she could have made it take place in the late 1800s or even early 1900s and the world would have made more sense.  I don’t see the need for it to have been in the future, especially since much of the world works with the help of Alchemy.

The negatives aside I did enjoy the world building.  Even though I wasn’t sure on the time period itself, I did like the world.  Rachel Caine did an amazing job with visuals and with so many different places visited I felt like each destination or building or room had its own uniqueness and I truly was traveling around with the characters.

And the characters! I thoroughly enjoyed each one.  Jess got me interested right away, but I didn’t start to love him until later in the book when his character grew more and you could understand more of his emotions.  I loved that he was a bit more complex and as a reader I got to grow with him.  I liked all the side characters and friendships that Jess made while attending a school to become part of the library.  As in any young adult book there were rivalries, but there was also fierce loyalty as they all began to realize the Library isn’t as moral as they all originally thought.  One character I liked immediately was Scholar Wolfe, he reminded me exactly of Professor Snape.  A seemingly cold, strict man grew into a lovable character.  And while I won’t give anything away, I will say I really liked his relationship with another character.  This book had so many diverse characters and I really liked each one of them.

As far as the plot, it was well done.  I was surprised at how much more brutal this book was then I would have ever thought.  The vivid war scenes and action scenes made me feel as though I was right there in the middle of it all.  I was caught up in the suspense and anxiety of finding out what would happen to the characters through each part.  There is also way more loss and death than I would have predicted even for the first book in a series!  Again I will not give anything away but there is one character I REFUSE to believe is dead.  Not only that, but as I said the book started off a bit confusing, as it went on it ironed out and I couldn’t stop reading as the scheming and lies of the Library kept being shown to us in the form of letters written at the end of each chapter.  Every chapter left me questioning so much more!

In the end, the world is under a dictatorship by the Great Library. They control what knowledge you have access too and what or where you can write. No one owns original books but instead owns the Codex or blank books that are seemingly like fancy tablets that load the books onto them.  Something that would help the world like a printing press is constantly destroyed by the Library.  So who really is on the right side of things, people who burn the books or people who control the books?

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! I need to find out what happens to these characters. It didn’t end on much of a cliff hanger but it did set up for the next book well and it was enough to make me want to know what happens next.  I recommend this book and if at first you may not like it keep trying it builds into so much more than you would imagine!

Knowledge is all.

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