“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never just be a business to you.”
– Rachel Caine, Ink and Bone
Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.
In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.
Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar… but even as he forms friendships and find his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.
Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life – and soon both heretics and books will burn…
I came across Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine – bestselling author of the Morganville Vampire series – on Goodreads a few months ago and when I discovered Allen and Unwin were publishing it in Australia I sent them an email requesting a reading copy. A book about books… there isn’t anything better! I am incredibly happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint! It is a fabulous tale of knowledge, adventure and power. Libraries have been around since the beginning of time. The origins of book collecting and libraries came from the classical world. Greek temples had archives full of texts written on papyrus and parchment. The most famous collection was that of the Peripatetic School founded by Aristotle. This collection formed the basis of the Great Library of Alexandria; their aim was to collect a complete body of Greek literature. There are several theories on how the Library was destroyed but Caine imagines what life could be like if it hadn’t been reduced to ash.
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.
Can you imagine a world where ownership of books is strictly forbidden and knowledge is controlled? It sounds like my own personal kind of hell but for Jess Brightwell, this is the world he lives in. A booklover himself, Jess is the son of a successful book-smuggling family. Set in the near future, the reader follows Jess’ journey as he is sent off to the Great Library in an attempt to gain entry within the protected walls and become a spy for his family. The Great Library is now its own country with an army to protect it at any cost… and as Jess soon discovers, that is usually at the cost of human life, taken without remorse. The Library is ruthless with its power and control and it won’t let its strictly controlled system be faulted in any way. There are rebels who burn books and perverts called ink lickers who eat the pages of extremely rare and original texts – oh the horror! Jess’ acceptance in the Library program reveals more than he though it would and soon he and his new friends are in danger with an unstoppable force on their tails. One of Jess’ friends has a secret that could threaten the very core of the Library; hidden away in the Iron Tower is a group of Obscurists managing the Library’s technology with a rare and unusual form of alchemy.
I loved everything about this book. I was a little wary at first as it all sounded too good to be true but Caine has created a remarkable story. Her world building is brilliant and her writing is descriptive and structured. The plot is tightly constructed and so believable. Her characters are a delight to read; they are built around their intelligence, skill and capabilities rather than their physical traits. We get small glimpses into their characters as the story progresses and I found myself liking them more and more.
The way Caine reveals the story is also incredibly smart; the chapters are broken up from Jess’ third person narration by internal communications from the Library. I found myself completely invested in the story when Caine reveals that the characters are in trouble before they know it themselves. Their loyalties are tested: loyalties between families, friends and the system they find themselves in. I love the subtle changes in power between the characters and the constant level of menace, simmering away below the surface.
Ink and Bone is definitely one to add to your reading pile. It is exciting and smart and completely captivating! Caine’s storytelling is a joy to read and I cannot wait for book two!
AUTHOR: Rachel Caine
PUBLISHER: Faber Factory Plus Ffp (Allen and Unwin in Aus)
PUB DATE: 26 August 2015
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
P.S. Interested in more information on the Great Library of Alexandria? Check out the following links:
http://www.bibalex.org/en/Default – Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the Library of Alexandria) was reborn in October 2002.
Now, while I haven’t been to The Great Library of Alexandria, I have been to the ruins of the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey. Here are some of my photos that will give you an inkling of what it may have been like!