What a fantastic concept: history has been re-written, and the Great Library of Alexandria is still in existence, the most powerful force in the world. Knowledge is power. And whomever controls the books, controls the knowledge.
There are branches, or Serapeum, of the Great Library, in most major cities throughout the world. They control the flow of knowledge. While personal ownership of books is outlawed, each individual can read the great works of literature, science, philosophy and art from throughout the ages with their Codex – a blank book that instantly fills with the desired reading. Think magical Kindle.
The Library is ruthless. Books are controlled with alchemy, practiced by a dwindling few who are kept locked away in the Iron Tower, for their protection, and for that of the Library. But that makes the Library vulnerable.
In London, 2025, Jess Brightwell is the son of a book thief. He spent his early years as a runner, one of the boys who strap a stolen book to his chest and outrun the police, or Garda, to deliver the object to a client. Being caught means being disowned by family, and death by hanging. But Jess survived.
Now he is 17 years old, and sitting the entrance exam to study and work in the Library. His father wants a contact there. Which means spy. Thief. Provider of goods for the smuggling trade. Jess wants to see and touch and read real books.
Ink and Bone is about love and the power of real books. The Codex may be a technological wonder, but the feel of paper, the smell of a story, that is what people want. What lengths will they go to achieve it?
I absolutely loved the world building in this novel. Beautiful. I felt like I was walking through the back streets of London, and exploring the halls of the Great Library. Rachel Caine’s writing evokes wonderful images of a lost treasure and a dystopian future.
I have mixed feelings about the various characters; I liked Jess, although his behaviour did not always seem true to his personality. But he grew and changed and made mistakes and evolved.
Thomas was wonderfully naive. Wolfe, possibly my favourite. I love the nasty professor with the hidden heart of gold. He is Snape! The other students, Santi, the Artifex, and Jess’s many and questionable relatives, were all interesting characters, but I didn’t really connect with them as much. Their personalities seem flat to me, underdeveloped, but perhaps that is for another book in the series.
The pace of the story did not move quickly. All the scheming and backstabbing and extra detail and character interaction that did not always add to the story slowed the action. But not a fatal flaw by any means!
I know we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but COME ON. This one is GORGEOUS.
This story is great for anyone who loves the touch and smell and look of a great book.
Ink and Bone: The Great Library is the first in the Great Library series, and published by NAL.