WARNING :: The first section of this review has some light spoilers, which should not effect your enjoyment of the story. There is a warning before the heavy spoilers (second section), which you should only read if you have finished the book.
Ink and Bone
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 his friend 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…
Rating: 4/5 *very good*
Let me start this review by saying that I am not a big fan of The Morganville Vampires, Caine’s previous young adult series. I remember trying to get through the first book several times, but something just didn’t click and it has been long since abandoned to my ‘mediocre book box’. Given this, I opened up Ink and Bone with a little trepidation – but I absolutely loved it!
Caine throws us headfirst into the world of Jess Brightwell, the young son of a book smuggler operating in London. Jess begins the story as a ‘runner’ and it is through his perspective that we are introduced to this alternate universe. Book smugglers are necessary because The Great Library of Alexandria forbids the ownership of original books – people are only allowed to read what the library permits on a device known as a codex (similar to a kindle). The Library is a formidable force, able to pull the political strings of nations and intimidate world leaders with its’ immense power.
We see a young Jess running a smuggler’s gauntlet across London, dodging the Library’s police, while providing the reader with some background to the story.The setting is a grimy, industrial age London with steam trains and chimney sweeps. Jess comes across as an Oliver Twist sort of character in this first chapter, a good kid from the wrong side of the tracks.
The introduction is fast-paced and very well done as Caine quickly sets up the heroes and villains of the story. As the first chapter closes we are hit with a bombshell….
(light spoiler ahead)
It is 2025!
The Library’s hoarding of knowledge has inhibited human development so much that 2025 looks like Victorian London. This revelation cleverly paints the grim picture of a totalitarian regime and a caged human race.
Fast forward a number of years and Jess appears to be in his mid/late teens. The plot really arrives when his father sends him on an undercover mission to infiltrate The Great Library for the benefit of the smugglers. From this point onwards Jess must walk a careful path as he is immersed in the life of a Library postulant.
As a character, Jess is well-written; he is relatable and kind, but not perfect. Jess constantly struggles with his shifting allegiances as he grows closer to his fellow students. These relationships are really the heart of the story, as the reader learns more about Jess through how he works with others to confront the various threats that arise. It is an engaging coming of age story, which takes a particularly dark turn in the latter half of the book.
The world-building in this novel is excellent. Caine provides the reader with intriguing tid-bits of information through the letters and manuscripts at the beginning of chapters. She has managed to create a world with a rich history and a timeline of international events that drive the story forward, while not boring the reader.
The ending is satisfying, with a good balance of answered and unanswered questions. The sequel is set up nicely and I am really looking forward to reading it.
Heavy spoilers ahead…
Questions left unanswered…
i) If it comes down to a choice will Jess forfeit his family in favour of The Library?
This seems fairly likely as Jess’ relationships with his fellow postulants were depicted as being much more concrete than his family relationships.
ii) What is Brendan up to and how will his actions impact Jess?
Brendan seems like a fairly conniving character. How will his rise in the smuggler ranks effect Jess’ situation?
iii) Is Thomas really dead? Could he have been imprisoned and forced to work for the library in secret? Could he have staged a last minute escape?
It is commonly known that in television or film if you don’t see a body the character is usually still alive. Is this the case here?
iv) Will the Welsh take London?
Oxford was a decisive victory for them, do they have the power to take London and how will this impact the smugglers?
v) Will Jess really spy on Wolfe for The Library as he has been blackmailed to do?
It seems like he doesn’t have a choice in the matter, although Wolfe did ensure that he won’t be too close.
Have you read this book? What do you think will happen in the sequel?
Thanks for reading! 🙂