Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #1
Genre: Steampunk/Sci-Fi
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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.

"You don't just have ink in your blood. It's in your bones. Your skeleton's black with it."

If you look at this book over at Goodreads, it's tagged as a bunch of different genres. Fantasy, Historical Fiction and Science Fiction - as both Dystopian and Steampunk. And that's a very clear indication of what this book is: a bunch of things thrown together in a way that won't work for everyone.

Me? I loved it!

Right from the start, from the 'historical' letter excerpt, I was taken by the story.

This book follows Jess, a teen boy - at least once you get out of the 'six years ago' prologue and, surprising myself, I actually liked him. I'm always on very shaky ground when it comes to liking teen boys in books, especially when they're written by a woman.

But I found Jess immediately likable. He's a book smuggler that loves books. What's not to immediately love? And beyond that, he's thoughtful - the first and third meanings of the word according to my dictionary. He develops a rivalry early on with one of his fellow students, but, even though they play some petty 'pranks' on each other, it never devolved into what I half was expecting it to.

And the supporting characters are so amazing! I pretty much adore each and every one of them. They all have a point, a purpose - and most of them even have a few secrets. They are also diverse without it seeming like a point was made for it or just being diverse cosmetically.

The best thing is, this actually makes sense for the story and the world. Even though it almost seems like a xenophobic world - or at the very least one still mired in the past mentality - it takes place in the not too distant future. (2025, to be exact.) And I really see the Library as being a kind of equalizing organization.

Anyone can own what are called blanks, books that allow you to 'borrow' text from the library. So, anyone - no matter how poor - may read these books, but only the books the Library allows them to read. This is both a wonderful idea and totally terrifying.

To me that's a pretty good example of the whole story. There are some wonderful ideas here but it's so easy to see the way they get perverted. I don't know if this is because Jess himself tends to see both sides of the story, or if that's just a testament to the author's skill in writing.

Towards the end of the book, I did start having a little problems staying truly invested. Uncoincidentally, this was the same time that Jess started getting all the romance feels for one of the girls. Honestly, I think I would have loved every moment of the book without that. As it was, this caused me to struggle through a large portion of the last 150 pages.

"The Library isn't a person. It doesn't have a conscience, or a heart or a soul. It does what it has to do to survive."

I would also like to note that I changed the Goodread synopsis a bit. I deleted the last paragraph because it is a major late-story spoiler that should have never even been used for the synopsis.