Title: Ink & Bone (The Great Library #1)
Author: Rachel Caine
Published by: NAL
Publication date: April 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Dystopia
Ink & Bone tells an alternate tale of history in which the Great Alexandrian Library never burned and now has more control over the world than governments and churches combined. It is illegal to own an original copy of a book and anyone who even dares to create something similar to a printing press is better off dead, even if they believed their invention could benefit the Library. There are creepy automatons and the people in charge won’t hesitate to kill someone in the name of keeping all the world’s knowledge for themselves. It’s pretty creepy if you think about it. “Lives are short, but knowledge is eternal.”
There are Burners (who burn books), smugglers (who smuggle books), Scholars (who work for the Library), Obscurists (alchemists who live out their days in a tower, also working for the Library), and those who are just in the way. Our protagonist, Jess, comes from a covert book smuggling family and while he loves books, he does not love being used by his own family to smuggle books or worse, see people destroy them.
Every year, hundreds of people take an exam for the chance to be a student of the Great Library. When Jess’ father makes him sit the exam, he passes. But Jess knows he’s not going there to become a Scholar. No, he’s going for the books.
What I didn’t expect from Ink & Bone was for there to be a sort of Hunger Games vibe to it as I find the synopsis on Goodreads to be pretty misleading. There’s approximately thirty teenagers who pass the exam who are then taken to be the Library to be trained. However, the Library only has six positions to fill and the students don’t always get to go home after flunking out. This little twist was most welcome but it definitely wasn’t what I had expected.
Ink & Bone was such a cool concept to me in that the historical Great Alexandrian Library has control over all the knowledge in the world. The Library, which you would think of as a safe haven to lose yourself in from time to time, is instead seriously terrifying what with its thirst for power and all the politics that goes on behind closed doors. It has an incredibly sinister side to it. “Books and men left the same traces where they burned.”
My absolute favorite thing about this book was the diversity. There were characters from all over the world, all incredibly smart and unique to the others. There was a M/M relationship that I freaking adored, as well as an interracial one. All of this diversity wasn’t used as a tool to further the plot or anything, the characters were just who they were and that was brilliant. The characters were also well written and all developed really well throughout their changing story lines.
My only real suggestion that could’ve made this book better would have been if it were told from some other perspectives than just that of Jess’ own. His story is good, sure, but we’ve got all these other characters that are even better and I felt so much more connected to them than to Jess. There are so many different aspects of this story that I think would’ve translated onto the page better had they been written from a different perspective. Jess was just too flat a character for me and I would’ve really liked to have seen the world of Ink & Bone through the eyes of other characters.
All in all, Ink & Bone was a really fun read. Any book lover will appreciate many aspects of this book, especially all the talk of well, books! Books are worth more than riches in this world and I felt giddy just reading about a character marveling over them. Ink & Bone is full of adventure and while it can be a little slow at times, I definitely liked it and would recommend it to anyone who likes post apocalyptic and/or steampunk books, a diverse cast of characters and most importantly, books.