Note: This is a review for the fifth and final book in The Great Library series. If you haven’t been following along, here are my book reviews for book 1 and 2, book 3, and book 4. If you haven’t read those books, I’d recommend starting with those book reviews so that I don’t spoil anything for you!
Sword and Pen The Great Library Series, Book 5
By Rachel Caine
When we left Jess Brightwell in Smoke and Iron, Brightwell and his friends had just taken down the leadership – the Archivist and his Curia – of the Great Library. In Sword and Pen, Brightwell and his friends must rebuild and stabilize Great Library – under new leadership – while simultaneously defending it from the bitter old Archivist AND ambitious empires and kingdoms that see an opportunity to take over. If the group isn’t successful, the Great Library will cease to exist.
It’s the 10th anniversary of The Hunger Games – the annual games held in the Capitol in which children (tributes) from the 12 districts of Panem (formerly known as North America) fight to the death, until only one remains. This year, things will go a little differently. In an attempt to spice things up, students from the prestigious Academy will mentor the tributes.
It’s 1947 and Charlie St. Clair is on her way to Europe with her mom, to take care of her Little Problem. Unwed and pregnant, Charlie is consumed with worry and hope for her cousin Rose, who disappeared in France during WWII. She may have lost her brother, but she’s determined to find and save her cousin. So Charlie ditches her mother and her appointment, and takes off looking for Rose by following the only lead she has – a name. Eve Gardiner.
One day, Zachary Ezra Rawlins takes a book out of the library… and suddenly finds himself reading about a moment from his childhood – a moment when he stands before a painted door and chooses not to open it. That library book changes the trajectory of his life. Why was he in this book? What did it mean?
A historical fiction novel based largely on the remaining letters of Thomas Jefferson, America’s First Daughter tells the story of his daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, from childhood through old age. Throughout most of her life, Patsy was her father’s constant companion, protector and helper. With him, she saw America’s war for independence; she traveled through America’s colonies; she experienced France as a monarchy and a country in revolution. She fell in love, twice. She became a mother and a grandmother. She entered her father’s world of politics and became America’s First Daughter, both at the Capitol and at her father’s home in Monticello. And she struggled with conflicted feelings of loyalty to her country, loyalty to her family, and her moral responsibility to not just her people – her enslaved servants – but to the nation’s people.
Review/Recommendation: When I finished My Dear Hamilton and published my book review, several friends and readers told me they enjoyed America’s First Daughter even better. So I promptly added my name to the 60+ person wait list at the library, and hoped that my turn would come up before I could forget about the book. Well, it was finally my turn, and I finished the almost 600 page book in a week (both because I enjoyed it and because I had some unexpected stretches of time to read due to travel).
I finished the book and reflected: Did I agree with my friends and readers? Was this better than My Dear Hamilton? In the end, I decided that better wasn’t quite the right word. I did find it to be a little bit faster-paced, but there were a lot of similarities between the two books. Each told the story of a historical figure that was overshadowed in history by the man in her life. Each book chronicled that woman’s life, almost in its entirety. Both were based on as much fact as possible, using any surviving letters to chronicle the women’s lives. Liberties were taken for reader experience, with much of those liberties detailed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed America’s First Daughter – the story of Patsy’s life as well as her evolution, growing into not just a woman but an American leader in her own way. She didn’t have it easy, but she did her best to live her life in a way that would honor her father, her religion and her country.
More than anything, America’s First Daughter – just like My Dear Hamilton – showed how one of the greatest men in America’s history was who he was, because of the great woman in his life. For that appreciation of overlooked women in American history, I’ll not only recommend American’s First Daughter to you, but also will continue to read similar books by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie in the future.