Title: Ink and Bone | Author: Rachel Caine
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine is the first book in The Great Library series. The book is of the alternate history genre and set in an alternate universe where The Great Alexandria Library was never destroyed. This causes the rise and power of the Library as an institution and as an influential player in society, politics, and culture. The Library, and those who work for them, hold the opinion that books are more valuable than a human life. So powerful is the Library that it is against the law and punishable by death for the public to own original works (Wait…what?!). Through a process called Mirroring, which Caine explains in the book, the public receives “mirrored” copies of originals in blanks, a Library bound book of blank pages. However, not everyone is on board. There are two separate factions at odds with the Library, Burners and smugglers. Burners believe a human life is more valuable than books and their weapon of choice is Greek fire, a green liquid concoction that when shattered from its glass container explodes into violent flames, quickly destroying everything in the area and its fumes are poisonous. It reminded me of Wildfire from The Song of Fire and Ice series aka Game of Thrones. Burners use Greek fire to burn libraries, original books, their private journals and usually themselves in the process of all this destruction. Burners are the Library’s public enemy number 1. Book smugglers, however, are in the black market business selling originals to the highest bidder. Books are seen as profit in their eyes and nothing more. Whether a book is well cared for or destroyed, it makes no difference to them. Unless however a raid is performed by the Library, then it becomes a worry if the contraband can be traced back to them, the seller. This is the world that the main character, Jess Brightwell, has grown up in. Jess’ family are smugglers and it is all Jess has ever known. Until one day, Jess’ father sends him into the belly of the beast, The Great Alexandria Library, with the task of gaining an appointment there in order to provide products for the family business. Jess quickly has his world view turned on its head all the while trying to survive Library boot camp.
I loved this book! It grabbed me from page one and refused to be put down until I had read the last printed period. Rachel Caine has created an amazing alternate universe and I cannot wait to jump into the next book of the series, Paper and Fire, which is set to debut on July 5th, 2016. However, I did have a few criticisms. Perhaps I was not reading carefully, but I didn’t quite grasp why there was a war between the Welsh and English, also to what end each was hoping to come to. It was interesting to read that in this universe that there is not a unified Britain like in ours and that Jess distinctly refers to himself as English, not British. I also had a hard time understanding how the “mirroring” process worked. I believe I had a better understanding of it by the end of the book and was able to equate it with today’s e-book, but it was a hard concept to grasp. This may be due to the fact Caine slowly dishes out bit by bit about Mirroring, alchemy, and Obscurists. I did enjoy this bit of magical realism in Caine’s world. Lastly, the plot line of Jess aiding his family’s business seems to disappear as the main character becomes more entrenched in the Library world. Ink and Bone is only book one of the series, so perhaps Caine will return to it in the next publication, but it seemed to be an abandoned plot line to me. However, now that I think about it further, perhaps something happened to his family given some of the incidents that occur in Ink and Bone. My curiosity needs Paper and Fire!!!
Overall, I gave the book 5 stars on Goodreads as I enjoyed it immensely. It was very thought provoking in the facade the Library projects versus the truth of the Library and the means they go to to meet their ends. I am currently writing a discussion post to delve deeper into this thought as well as the philosophy of the Burners. I’m very excited for the next installment, Paper and Fire, which is set to be released on July 5th, 2016.
What are your thoughts on Ink and Bone? Leave me a comment below and let’s discuss!
Until next post,
One down 15 to go! This book is a part of my Summer Reading List!