Published by Allison & Busby on July 7th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
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…
Truth be told: I liked the idea of this book more than I actually liked the book. Ink and Bone was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015, and it fell a bit flat.
Welcome to a world set in 2025 in which the Great Library of Alexandria had never been burnt and destroyed, and where books are a treasure hoarded and guarded by a powerful minority; where the private possession of books is illegal and punishable (yes, I think we can agree that we’d all be screwed).
There are three parts to learning: information, knowledge, and wisdom. A mere accumulation of information is not knowledge, and a treasure of knowledge is not in itself, wisdom.
The Library holds itself to be the keeper of both knowledge and wisdom, but it is not true. So much should never be held in the hands of so few, for it is a natural, venal habit of men to hold power. And knowledge is the purest form of power.
16-yr old Jess Brightwell earns his keep in London as a Runner, a book smuggler. His father, however, realises that Jess would rather read the books than smuggle them (which he secretly does in his hideouts), and sends Jess to take the entry test for an apprenticeship in the Great Library of Alexandria – with a hidden agenda, that is.
In this alternative future, librarians are at the top of the food chain, so to speak.
”The first purpose of a librarian is to preserve and defend books.”
“The books come first, Sir. Isn’t that how it should be? Books before men?”
Wolfe almost smiled. “As you see. They’re not children. They’re librarians.”
✓ The premise had captured my interest immediately because of the unique concept.
✓ The main character was very likeable, never running blindly into situations or hating on other people or any other pet peeves I sometimes experience with protagonists. However, he was bland and not especially memorable, and this extends to all the characters. Figures I’d list this under the things I liked and then I turn it into something I didn’t like.
✓ Romance barely existed in the first half, which was fine by me. The romance that did occur was light and neatly folded on the back seat as it should be. (With the only problem being that, as with everything else, it didn’t touch me one bit).
✓ The plot ran at an unexciting average pace but, thank God, finally accelerated in the last third of the book. It was only at that point where my eyes became glued to the pages.
✓ The central topics like loyalty, power, and greed were really intriguing! Even LGBTQ+ and cultural diversity are awared a moment in the spotlight.
✗ The setting is the year 2025 but it reads like a novel set in the 18th century. Advanced technology is hinted at, for example newspapers that automatically change (which has more to do with magic than technology seeing as it is still made out of paper but ok, let’s just… go with it), but the descriptions… I kept picturing medieval castles or ancient Egyptian architecture. London and Alexandria are modern cities, and Caine did not get this feeling across. Not one bit. Also, they travel large distances by train instead of taking the plane, but ok, it’s not like I want to badmouth ecological travelling in 2025.
✗ I thought the additional element of magic was unnecessary and at times confusing. The setting had already been special without the magic aspect, which was, by the way, barely explained.
✗ This is something minor but it bugged me: The way Jess had to help out with the family business made it seem as though the Brightwell’s weren’t doing well financially. Also, Jess is teased for being a “lowborn”, and yet at some stage Caine notes that they are “a rich family”. Sooo, kids get bullied because they’re wealthy in 2025? Did I miss something?
✗ It took Rachel Caine 240 pages to start impressing me.
Ink and Bone was a book that made me feel little, yet it’s hard to dislike it or discredit it as a bad book. The book wasn’t bad; it was fine. However, that was exactly my problem: It was just fine, though I expected it to perform due to its amazing and original premise. Throughout the book, I felt utterly unaffected by the characters, their relationships, and the plot. The aspect I cared for the most was hands down the books. If Ink and Bone had wanted more than 3 stars, it would have had to move me, shatter my world, or deliver some damn fireworks. (Also, can I just take the opportunity to point out that there are way too many YA books with Bone in their title? Shadow and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, …). This is another prime example of a great premise but a lacking execution.