by Rachel Caine
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In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…
With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.
Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.
Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.
But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…
A year ago, Rachel Caine gave me something I didn’t know I needed : an alternative world where The Great Library of Alexandria has authority over life or death, where lions aren’t only wild animals but also creepy automatons (of course I love them) – A world in which smuggling books is no small feat *cough* it could kill you, okay? *cough*
Today Rachel Caine comes back with the sequel of Jess’ adventures, and if I didn’t like it as much as I loved Ink and Bone, I still think that this premise is absolutely fantastic and have hopes for the last one. Really, though? I cannot wait to see what you will think, so why don’t enter the giveaway and make an opinion for yourself?
My review of Ink and Bone : 4 stars
In my honest opinion the strength of Ink and Bone lies first in the plot, which is entertaining as hell, and in the world-building, which contains several of my main interests : think books, automatons, alchemy, a dystopian world ruled by Librarians who control every knowledge (or aim to) and an academy blended together. Exciting? FUCK YEAH.
► Random facts you might want to know about Ink and Bone (because there’s no way I’m spoiling the story for you)
✔ After reading I went to my bookshelves and HUGGED my paperbacks. Not my Kindle. The thing kind of scared me.
✔ It presents an alternative history that actually MAKES SENSE (most of the time) : think about our history with a twist, the uprising of the Great Library, an organization that controls every book and then, holds a great deal of power. No press. No Gutenberg. I know, *GASP*
✔ Oh, they have lions automatons as guards : HOW AWESOME IS THAT???
✔ I loved the concept of Codex and every invention, really. I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s say that the Great Library developed a number of mechanisms, first of all the ability to transfer and erase words on every book sold, because they’re all blanks, sort of ereaders controlled by the Library awhile originals are carefully kept in Alexandria. An example? Look at your book, and imagine that it would be possible for someone else to alter or erase its content in one second without even being at the same place as you. OMG BUT THAT’S POSSIBLE! Frightening, right? I thought so. Especially given that printed books are outlawed.
Concerning the characterization, I have to admit that I’m not completely convinced by it because it lacks of depth. Indeed the characters felt quite blank sometimes – not in a boring way, but they weren’t fleshed-out enough in my opinion, especially the secondary ones like Jess’s fellow students, who were border stereotypical on some aspects. That’s why I’d have wanted them to be less transparent in their intentions and more intricate. However, I did enjoy Wolfe’s character a lot, because he was complex and multi-layered : here’s the kind of characters I can love.
“I suppose you want me to apologize for calling you a bastard.” “No need,” Santi said. “You should hear what his friends call him.” ” I have friends?” Wolfe said. “They don’t care to admit it in public.”
As for Jess, the main character, I’m afraid that my complaints prove to be the same. Indeed although I can’t say that I didn’t care about him because it would be false, at the same time I can’t deny that I kept feeling that something was missing to completely win me. Oh, well. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m not used to that kind of books (which emphasizes on the plot, let’s say) anymore. Indeed almost every one of my favorite authors (Marchetta, Moskowitz, Robin Hobb, even) focus primarily on the characterization and that’s okay with me, because that’s what I seek most of the time. Not here : not that Jess’s character wasn’t interesting, but he never stood out either. Now, perhaps does it serve the story’s purpose, in a way? Concerning his personality, he’s not flawless and I’m glad he isn’t : indeed he makes mistakes, he has at first a restrained vision of the world (yes, he’s sometimes full of
shit stereotypes, but now, he’s 16, give him a break) but how in the world could it be different, tell me? From his upbringing spent as a smuggler for his family’s business to his training in the Academy, he has always been used, and genuinely doesn’t know how to deal with real relationships. However something about him rubbed me the wrong way, and that’s the fact that he cares about books more than people. Well, even as a book lover (no shit) it made me a little uncomfortable at times, I must confess. Fortunately it doesn’t stay that way, because despite the fact that books are rare in his world, I wouldn’t have stand a character who happily watches people getting starved and killed because of books. Sorry guys. I’m TEAM HUMANS. (I’m French, after all. Yes, that’s relevant. You’ll see) But then, little by little, he evolves. Day after day, he realizes that the world is not near as simple as he thought he was. Page after page, we get to know him better, to understand him more. Chapter after chapter, the choices he has to face become more and more difficult and the lines between right or wrong blur… For that, I thank you, Rachel Caine.
For that, I’m eager to read the next book because I feel how strong his potential can be. Finally, for most of the book, I got the feeling that the romance was… Well… I’d say “low-cute”. What is it, you’re asking? It means that I’m happy for them, kind of, but I don’t care and to me it was unnecessary since the author openly didn’t focus on it, so much that the story would have been as great without it. Now, (don’t hit me) but that’s what I thought about the romance in Harry Potter too. I just don’t care. That’s not why I loved the books. So, yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of this romance which stayed in no-chemistry territory, until, until, until suddenly I started to feel something, and that was as glorious as unexpected. Now, and that’s something I rarely write, but to me the pacing was perfection : I was never EVER bored and the writing just flowed smoothly, making the read completely addictive, and some parts were so full of tension that my heartbeat increased.
PS : French are rebels, eat lambs and drink red wine : of course they do >.< PS2 : No, Dario, Spanish wine isn’t better than Cahors. DUH. PS3 : I might be (a little) subjective. MAY-BE.
Giveaway to win a copy of Ink and Bone (US only)
My review of Paper and Fire : 3 stars
✔ As it was the case with the first book, we’re on for a ride in a fast-paced and action-packed story which manages to stay out of boredom territory at all times. It is addictive and that’s rare enough to point.
Moreover, alternative history is my jam, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the world-building kept my interest awake. This said, more we go on in the story, more the similarities with regular YA Fantasy novels – Dystopian? – become hard to hide. That’s why even if I kinda worship the Lion automatons (really, they’re just so much fun!), the bunch of kids trying to overtake a Great Power in a world in war with Resistants… tires me a little. Call me cynical.
Not to mention that looking back… I can’t not see how little happened in this book, and by that, I mean, things that actually matter for the story’s progression. If I compare the ending of Ink and Bone and this one, I’m let with a bad after taste because in all honesty, I expected more. More craziness, more originality, less useless scenes about characters I don’t care about…. and less predictability.
✔ Let’s talk about the characters, okay? They’re great. No, really, they are. The relationships dynamics are interesting, we get at least three romances (without forgetting the LGBT diversity), they have to make harsh choices, and yet…
And yet I don’t feel anything for them. Take Jess, for example. The boy’s sarcastic, a little wild, damn, he’s a reformed smuggler (I do love my thieves) and is in love with a girl who’s locked in a high-security tower. Perfect, right? Too bad his story never, ever, pulled at my heart strings and let me so devoid of any emotion that I wonder if my heart’s working. And don’t get me started about the tedious romances (plural) that never managed to give me butterflies. Please don’t give us romances if we’re not going to feel any of the supposed heartbreak or joy. Don’t, because their uselessness is way too noticeable. Ugh, annnnnd arguments I didn’t even UNDERSTAND. What’s the problem with me, really?!
Unfortunately I can say the same about every one of these characters. On paper they work, I like them enough, but in the end, they lack complexity and I don’t care about any of them, or, rather, I can’t connect with them. For all the hardships they endure, they still feel like visitors in their own story sometimes. Or that’s just me.
✔ As usual, Rachel Caine‘s prose flows smoothly and makes for an enjoyable and easy read.
It relies way too-much on narratives choices that annoy me a great deal. I’ll call them “forewarning” but really, I could say, “these things authors do when they think we’re too stupid to figure it out”.
1) The letters : So the story is filled with letters from different important figures from this world, and are meant to inform us about other’s intentions. Their problem? They destroy any kind of tension in the story.
Let’s take an example, shall we? So our MCs are about to be imprisoned (GASP), and wonder if they’re gonna be betrayed by someone. Of course, being sensible readers, we’re scared too, poor kids don’t deserve that.
A page later though, we get a letter.
From this person.
Who says she won’t betray them.
Before we even get to that part of the story.
I mean, why the fuck not? I’ll tell you why : if I know everyone’s intentions, my mind can never wander in fear. Plus they’re so low on authenticity, I can’t even.
2) Useless scenes, as in, involving characters I don’t care about who do things I don’t care about and whose purpose stays very unclear. They’re few, yes, but already too many for me.
[So Brendan may be ruthless or in love or both. I’m sorry, but who the fuck care?! (hide spoile
► Why 3 stars, then? Because despite its flaws, Paper and Fire is a book which offered me a few hours of fun. Sometimes it’s enough, but that wasn’t what I expected after the rollercoaster that was Ink and Bone. Oh, well. I still hold hopes for the last one 🙂