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when Second Book Syndrome strikes: Paper and Fire

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Pub. Date: July 5, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, NAL!)
Summary: 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…
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Fantasy, Big Brother is Always Watching

Last year’s Ink and Bone was a dazzling start to Rachel Caine’s latest series, a near-future fantasy where the Library of Alexandria exists and thrives – but sharing in that wealth of knowledge is seriously monitored if not expressly forbidden. While it wasn’t without its faults I was willing to overlook my issues for the sake of world-building and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Unfortunately, Paper and Fire suffers from a SEVERE case of Second Book Syndrome, when a book in a series (typically the second, though it could be a later volume) falls short, and that’s sadly what happened here. My main problem lies in the complete lack of backstory. Caine didn’t rehash events from the first book, explain this new world (I completely forgot the book is set a mere 6 years in the future until I reread my review for Ink and Bone!) or define words like Burner, blank, automata, and High Garda. It’s been a year since I was in this world and had completely forgotten what had happened, who was who, and who had died and Caine did nothing to catch me up to speed. Instead she simply continued on with her story as though no time had elapsed from Ink and Bone‘s release.

As I got further into the book and reacquainted myself with its characters I began to remember what was going on, but even then I was crawling along at such a sluggish pace that at one point I set the book down for several days and read two other novels before feeling the need to return to this one. While Paper and Fire had its moments, there was just nothing to keep me glued to its pages. I didn’t care one bit about the ridiculous romance between Jess and Morgan (mainly because it seemed like THEY didn’t care about the romance themselves – their grand love was so dull and lifeless and felt totally tacked on in an attempt to pull in readers from the Romance market) and the few characters I did have an interest in (hello, Wolfe and Santi!) felt off-putting and guarded and I never got that deeper look I had been hoping for.

It’s such a shame I found Paper and Fire to be so lacking, but a plot that goes absolutely nowhere (and had me bored enough to set it aside and finish two other books before picking it up again), dull characters with no growth, and a nonexistent recapping of Ink and Bone made this one a dud. I had been so looking forward to this book (Library of Alexandria! Robot lions!Big Brother!) and now it’s one of 2016’s biggest disappointments. I’ll admit I’m intrigued that the third book will take place in America, but don’t expect to find me champing at the bit to get my hands on a copy.

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