Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: Ink and Bone

Ink and Bone
By Rachel Caine
Published: July 7, 2015

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

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 he 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.…

My review:

Jess has been smuggling books for his father's black market business since he was a little boy. It is a dangerous job (Jess's older brother lost his life for it) but in a world where owning your own books is illegal, it is a lucrative profession. When his father tells him that he has purchased Jess the chance to enter Library training, Jess is both frightened and thrilled. Jess loves knowledge and while his family business is to thwart the Great Library, Jess is excited at all that he can learn. Of course being at the Library is even more dangerous than being a smuggler especially if they found out the truth about his family.

The training process is hard and their teacher, Scholar Wolfe is demanding. Some of the students are cutthroat but Jess also makes friends such as Thomas, Khalila and Morgan. As Jess trains he realizes that he wants to succeed and become a Scholar but it will take every bit of courage to succeed. Then the war encroaches on their training and one of his friends runs afoul of the Library, throwing their future into question.

Jess is a smart and resourceful hero. He has led a dangerous life but his experiences help prepare him for what he will be up against in his training. Jess has a twin brother Brendan who is a loose canon and tends to be cruel. His dad is demanding and his mom is distant so Jess is used to having books for company. It is nice to see Jess form some friendships even though his classmates are his competitors for the handful of openings at the Library. There is even a hint of romance though that is definitely not the main focus of the story. The secondary characters are intriguing as well. Scholar Wolfe is full of secrets and so are some of Jess's classmates and friends. 

The world that Jess lives in is fascinating. There are science and steampunk elements and magic as well as a historical feel to the setting. People own Kindle-like devices that allow them to check out books from the Great Library but they are not print copies to be owned. Those "originals" are stored by the library except those copies secretly held by others that Jess and his family sell and smuggle. The Great Library of Alexandria controls the dissemination of all knowledge and there are smaller branch libraries or serapeum in cities all over the world. The employees of the Great Library and its branches are Scholars, Obscurists (who have the rare gift of alchemy and copy the books) and the Garda who protect it.

Ink and Bone is one of those rare books that lives up to the hype. Rachel Caine's literary agent describes the book as The Book Thief with Fahrenheit 451 by way of Harry Potter” and I'd have to agree that there are a couple of similar elements (still haven't read Fahrenheit 451) but Ink and Bone is different as well. It has an intricate setting but there is also plenty of action especially once Jess's training gets underway. There is a bit of a Harry Potter feel (but darker) with the school and one of the characters reminds me a lot of a character from Harry Potter. Do not pick up the book expecting it to be anything like Harry Potter however or you will be disappointed! I also liked how the novel explored the concept of censorship and access to knowledge. Jess's world may be hard to grasp but in human history people have been kept from access to information and learning based on race, gender and economic status. Libraries and knowledge have also been destroyed by conquerors and those who wish to destroy a people's culture. In the book there are Burners who destroy books and libraries (as well as themselves) to show how wrong the Library is. The Great Library's leaders also value knowledge over individual lives.

I thought this book was fantastic and the ending was shocking. I can't wait to find out what happens in the sequel. Readers who enjoy fantasy, steampunk, or books about books should give Ink and Bone a try! 


  1. Fantastic review! I've been hearing nothing but high praise for this, and your review has convinced me to try it. Thanks!

  2. Wow- fantastic review! I love the sound of this one. I think it's an interesting point that you make about censorship and that in history people have been kept from books, learning, etc. So true and I think that is what makes this book even more intriguing. I definitely want to check this one out. Thanks for the great review, Christina!


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