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The Great Library Series
By Rachel Caine
Book 1: Ink and Bone
Book 2: Paper and Fire
Book 3: Ash and Quill (Published in July 2017 – read my review here)
Book 4: Smoke and Iron (Published in 2018 – read my review here)
Book 5: Sword and Pen (Published in 2019 – read my review here)
Associated Short Stories:
Tigers in the Cage (Book 0.1)
Stormcrow (Book 0.5)
This series takes place around the year 2045. It’s a world that is unrecognizable to the reader, as this version of the future starts with a very different version of our history. The Great Library of Alexandria not only survives but rises to a position of power and protects knowledge from being lost from war and disaster that plague Earth’s history. While there are some technological advancements, the Library banishes all ideas that would challenge it’s existence to The Black Archives, essentially rewriting history.
In this version of history, electricity is non-existent, trains and vehicles run on steam. But more important to the plot, Johannes Gutenberg never invented the printing press, or rather, he did but his research was banished to The Black Archives. Instead of reading physical books, stories and books are read on “blanks,” or codices, preloaded with stories from the Library via alchemy. In this way, the Library can not just censor what is read but it can track what the user is interested in. It’s illegal to own handwritten books, with the exception of your own personal journal.
It is in this version of the future that Jess Brightwell lives. Son of a black market book trader, Jess grew up smuggling books and running from the Library. However, at his core, he loves knowledge and books. As he approaches adulthood, his father buys him the opportunity to test into Library service, with the intention that his son would serve the family business from within its enemy.
Ink and Bone starts off with a scene from Jess’ childhood, but is centered around his introduction to the Library, surviving the training and the elimination process, and building a relationship with a small group of fellow trainees. And in the middle of all of that? Jess and his friends are caught in a Library plot against their teacher, putting them into dangerous situations and testing their loyalty, not just to the Library but to each other.
Paper and Fire picks up where the first book left off. Jess and his friends finished training, but are caught up in some pretty dangerous Library plots. This second book is even more fast paced than the first, as the friends embark on a mission to save a friend and constantly run from threats from the Library.
Review/Recommendation: Although it took me a little while to get into the first book, I very much enjoyed the first two books in this series. I particularly enjoyed the historical references throughout the novels – to well-known authors, inventors, and scholars… even if the references in the books didn’t match up with our history. Although it’s supposed to be a young adult series, the historical contexts and general writing style made it feel like more of an adult novel, allowing it to appeal to a wider variety of audiences.
I did read the two short stories associated with this series. They were very short and quick. While interesting, they were so short that they didn’t add much to the general story line, even as background notes on the characters. You can read them or not. If you skip them, you won’t miss anything.
I’ll probably skip any additional short stories that come out, but I look forward to the third book (and any others that come out) coming out this summer.
Update: This series was completed in 2019. Subsequent books as well as my book reviews are listed below:
- Book 3: Ash and Quill (Published in July 2017 – read my review here)
- Book 4: Smoke and Iron (Published in 2018 – read my review here)
- Book 5: Sword and Pen (Published in 2019 – read my review here)
This post was updated in Oct. 2020 to remove the links to the short stories. The source is no longer available. I also added links to the book reviews for the remainder of the books in the series.