Ink and Bone | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐
"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."
Ink and Bone is the first novel in The Great Library, a YA fantasy series by Rachel Caine.
I see a magical library and I am automatically here for it. I love a good story centred around some kind of library, especially a magical one. This is a magical library combined with a magic school, which makes it double intriguing. Did this work for me though despite that? The answer is well, kind of.
In the beginning, I thought it was okay because it stuck strictly to the academic setting which I liked. As the story progressed, however, it became a bit darker and instead focus more on war and corruption which I liked decidedly less.
Let's get into the details.
I don't have much to say in this section. I think this was written pretty well considering that I do not like many YA books at the moment. One thing I didn't like though is the letter correspondence. Sure they gave some additional information about what was going on from a different perspective, but in the end, they didn't add much and could have been added straight into the story normally.
We follow Jess in the distant future of 2025, whose family illegally runs books for money. The way the story was set up was a bit jarring to me because a certain tone and plot were set that was quickly moved on from. That is because we don't spend much time with Jess as he runs books. He ends up growing up rather quickly and then taking an examination to get into the Great Library after his father gave him an ultimatum.
The beginning was a bit rough, along with the end, but I did find the middle okay. That is mainly because this is set at a school of sorts. The Great Library (of Alexandria) is filled with books, books that pertain more or less to the library and only the library. I was interested in the library and their studies there, but as I said in the introduction, the plot did end up expanding beyond that which I didn't expect, nor enjoy as much.
The library isn't all that it seems to be, and there is a darkness to it. Usually, I would be fine with this kind of premise, but because I did enjoy the setting the most out of everything, the sudden shift in direction really threw me off. I just didn't particularly want to read about war and corruption, but if that doesn't bother you then you might still enjoy this.
Admittedly, there were some details that didn't quite line up for me. For one, the journey to the library for one, because it was way too quick and easy. We are talking about going from Britain to Egypt, which would take a significant amount of time by train and boat. For two, why is continuing your studies at the library depend on the luck of a draw? If they are truly looking for promising students then you wouldn't do this.
This is set in the future which feels more like a technological past. I don't know why, but this screams more industrial age to me than futuristic because it is a bit of a dismal future. Aside from the addition of the automata, moving guard statues essentially, it doesn't feel very futuristic.
Let's talk about the library though. I mentioned already that I enjoyed that setting the most, and was sad that it wasn't focused on as much as it ended up being. It may be focused on in more depth in the rest of the series, seeing as this series is... books long, but I wanted to know more about it. The library has several specialties, many of which weren't explained in much detail.
One criticism I have about the library though is that I forgot this was set in Alexandria. Alexandria is a pretty special setting, so you really need to dial into it which this story doesn't really do. A book I found did that better, although I didn't particularly like it, is The Atlas Six.
In terms of the characters, I didn't mind all of them at all. I didn't hate any of them which is a huge win for me because there is always at least one character I dislike. I would have loved to know more about Wolfe and Santi though. They are portrayed as strict and cold teachers, but you get hints of a grander backstory which I do find interesting.
This wasn't bad. Sure, again, my enjoyment decreased because of the direction the story went in, but I still enjoyed this well enough.