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Aug 07 2015

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (Book Review)

Ink and BoneRating: ★★★

Review: I know it’s only August, but if I had to pick a book I’ve read so far this year that I would say was my favorite, this would be the one without question!

Just on a few aesthetics first and then I’ll get into the substance of the book. The length is very manageable and while the chapters were longer than I’m used to (or like) the story far made up for that and I hardly noticed it. I’ve probably mentioned it before but if a book has chapters where they are more than 10-15 pages in length I usually don’t read it. Why? Well, I’m not really sure why. It’s the same with length as well. If I can avoid books that are over 700 pages then I’ll gladly do it!

I also want to say the cover artwork, specifically with the fonts is what made me notice the book. Honestly, I came across this title while going through Barnes & Noble to see what books were “Coming Soon” as I often do and the title spoke to me so I read the description and added it to my TBR list. I’ve found that books where books are a part of the storyline are very interesting. I think I might read these kinds of books more often…

As for the premise of the book, this is an entirely created, from the ground up, world! Not only that, what I found most interesting was the similarity it had with the book I read before this one, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. This is a bit of a spoiler but I noticed that while in each the stories take place “in the future” of sorts, however, each one has a “device” that when it’s described is something we use today. For instance, in Seraphina, music plays a huge role in the book since the main character is a gifted musician. One of the other characters, Lars, creates this booming instrument that he plays in a cathedral where its described as having two keyboards, all this intricate tubing, and the sound coming from it is so powerful those who hear it feel it in their bones. Sound familiar? Then in this book I just read, Thomas, a student who likes to tinker with technology, in a world where being an individual and going against those in charge of the great Library is not prohibited, he decides to create what he thinks is something that will solve the worlds problems.

First let me tell you what their world problem is exactly. This book takes place in the year 2025 which isn’t all that far away from today but where these people are and where we are leads you to realize very quickly that this book isn’t some glimpse into what our future will be like in the next decade.

The Great Library was created to house all original works by famous writers. Not only that but as this Library gathers all the original volumes of books, anyone who has an original book in the possession can be arrested for harboring contraband. The point behind not allowing citizens to have physical copies of books or the ability to go to a store and purchase a book is because this gives a freedom those in power can’t and won’t afford. With freedom will come a knowledge that those in power don’t trust everyone to have. Hence the “Knowledge is Power” at the bottom of the book cover. We meet several people who fall into different groups of people that reside in this world. There are those who steal novels to then sell in the black market. The main character, Jess (who is male and I mention his gender because every time I read his name I had a hard time remembering he was a he…) comes from a family of thieves and his father pays a lot of money to get his son into the training program that will hopefully get him a job within the Great Library so he can be a spy for them. There are those who are rebellious to what the Great Library is doing and they are called Burners because they would rather burn books and take their own lives in the process to prove many points, one of which, I believe, is that while they are all enslaved by what they can and can’t read, the Great Library can’t prevent them from taking their own life in very public ways. Specifically with some green chemical that turns their bodies into a pile of ash.

Lastly there are those who make up the Great Library. I’ll start with the automaton who I imagine being like those lions that are outside of the huge library here in New York City but they are able to move around. They protect the Library and will literally crush and kill any who pose a threat. The Garda are human and highly trained in combat to protect the Library employees. They are made up of Researchers and Scholars. Then there are the higher ups. But the ones who are most important to the story are the Obscurists. They are a small group of people who possess and ability to not only harness the words from all the books in the Library’s possession but they also are responsible for transmitting those works to people who request permission to read a book. See, just because you can’t have an actual book in your house doesn’t mean you can’t read certain books. Everyone is equipped with a Codex, which I imagine being a sort of super advanced iPad, where they can read books, get emails and text messages, things like that. Only the Obscurists are kind of like walking, talking, human, Big Brothers. And the leaders of this Library realize that without these Obscurists, who are few and far between as it is, this whole system could fall apart and of course they don’t want that so they are enslaved in the Iron Tower, never allowed to leave or have visitors of any kind.

At the school, in Ptolemy House, where Jess goes for training to hopefully get a position within the Library, we meet several other students. One of which is an Obscurist on the run because she doesn’t want to be a slave, and Thomas, which leads me back to where I started with his “idea” on how to fix all the worlds problems. He creates a large device where letters are lined up to form words (backwards) and when a dark liquid substance is applied then a paper placed on top and they are both pressed together, words appear on the page. Sound familiar?

He creates this so that the Library no longer has the need for the Obscurists to hold on to these one of a kind books and therefore no need to keep them enslaved. The Burners can stop rebelling because they can have copies of books in their home and feel freedom, and all will be right with the world. Or so he thought…

Okay, so this is turning into the longest review I’ve ever written so I’m going to stop here and just suggest you go read this book for yourself to see what happens because contrary to the many paragraphs I’ve written here, I’ve left A LOT out!

Synopsis: 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 he 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.…

Ink and Bone
Great Library Series, #1
by Rachel Caine

350 pages
Penguin | July 2015
Young Adult
Read in 4 days