Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Pub. Date: July 7, 2015
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, NAL!!)
Summary: 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.…
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Alt-History
Recommended for: Readers who are curious about a world where the LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA still exists!

When the right buzz words and comparisons are thrown at me, I melt like butter. Case in point: Ink and Bone, an alternate history novel where the Library of Alexandria (now known as the Great Library) is thriving and rules access to knowledge with an iron fist. Original copies of books are squirreled away inside the Library and the only way to read a volume is through a blank – literally an empty book that, through alchemy, ‘downloads’ the work. Basically, think of it as borrowing an e-book from your own library: you use your e-reader/device as a means to read the book.

It’s 2026 and the world as we know it couldn’t be more different. England and Wales are engaged in a brutal, senseless war and the Great Library’s fierce stance on censorship has led to an underground network of book smugglers, one of the most successful smuggling rings belonging to Jess Brightwell’s family. For a price (that can end in imprisonment – even death) Jess and his relatives will track down highly-prized books. Jess’s entire life changes the day his father announces he’s secured Jess a spot on the Library’s latest round of testing. Although Jess sees the Library as something good and necessary, his father recognizes this opportunity as a chance to have a spy on the inside. Out of the twenty applicants, only six will receive an offer to work for the Library – and Jess isn’t about to go down without a fight.

I’m very picky when it comes to YA, and I’ve learned the hard way that I do NOT like Dystopian novels, so imagine my surprise when I not only found myself enjoying Ink and Bone, but enjoying it to the point where I read this novel in one sitting and am looking forward to the sequel! That said, I’m not exactly sure what happened in this book. Oh, sure, I can tell you all about different scenes, but I’m at a loss as to what the Big Picture is here. Some message about censorship?

Jess and the other new recruits were wonderfully crafted and I loved getting to know them. However, Ms. Caine was VERY heavy-handed with her stab at diverse characters: Dario Santiago, a hot-blooded and flirty Spaniard; Thomas Schreiber, a half-giant from Berlin and possibly my favorite character in the novel; Glain Wathen, a Welsh girl with a fiery temper; Izumi Himura, a delicate-featured, sleek-haired girl from Japan; Khalila Seif, constantly referred to as ‘the Arab girl;’ I could go on. I’m all for a diverse cast, but to be beat over the head with the constant reminders every scene of where so-and-so is from was a bit much.

Apart from that minor issue, the characters were great (particularly their teacher, Scholar Wolfe and his guard, Santi.) Ink and Bone does a decent job of building this new world – something not always easily done when it comes to Dystopian novels, even more difficult when alternate history gets thrown into the mix! There are some terms and ranks I’m still unsure of, but Caine crafted an intriguing world where things aren’t always what they seem and the lines between black and white can quickly become blurred. Between chapters there were awesome bits of ephemera – typically notes and letters – and some of these stretched back centuries (from Thomas Paine to Johannes Gutenberg), showing just how the Great Library has been keeping knowledge close at hand for countless centuries.

There’s violence galore and, naturally, a romance or two, though I love that Caine didn’t allow it to take center stage. In fact, the romances weren’t even mentioned until the latter half of the novel and even then they didn’t overwhelm the story (though there was one I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of!) Ink and Bone has been described as “The Book Thief with Fahrenheit 451 by way of Harry Potter.” I wouldn’t say that’s exactly the case, more of Fahrenheit 451-meets-The Bone Season, and it’s a series I’m definitely looking forward to continuing!


8 thoughts on “Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

  1. I’m definitely not a fan of YA dystopians (perhaps, the Hunger Games is the exception), but the rest just sort of bore me. So to hear another reluctant dystopian reader raving about a dystopian book makes me instantly add this book to their Goodreads wishlist. Seriously though, how can I pass on a book where the Library of Alexandria still exists?

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