Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (Great Library, #1)

by Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.
In 48 AD, a fire set by the troops of Julius Caesar destroyed much of the Great Library of Alexandria. It was the first of several disasters that resulted in the destruction of the accumulated knowledge of the ancient world. But what if the fire had been stopped? What would the Library have become?
Fast forward: the Great Library is now a separate country, protected by its own standing army. It has grown into a vast power, with unquestioned and unrivalled supremacy. Jess Brightwell, seventeen and very smart, with a gift for mechanical engineering, has been sent into the Great Library as a spy for his criminal family. Magical spells and riots abound in this epic new YA series.

Reviewed by sa090 on

5 of 5 stars

There is honestly no better feeling in my reader life than when I read an amazingly entertaining book after a disappointment.


I didn't expect to get attached to a series this quickly after reading Wayward Children, considering the amount of series I started this year, I thought hopefully it'll be fun but not necessarily a potential favourite but I'm 100% glad I'm wrong. I read this book in the expanse of two days, not that it was insanely long but even with my very busy work schedule I couldn't stop reading it at all. The biggest thing I absolutely loved about the series is the greyness of its major players, yes, if you're reading the synopsis and JUST going by what it tells you then it's very easy to decide or at least think of who is an apparent villain vs an apparent hero but here's the beautiful thing about this; it's not so clear cut. I had a similar experience when watching "Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra" where I'll think that I figured out the characters/organizations and end up receiving more info that makes it extremely hard to pin just one trait to anyone.

This grey area is just so lovely to see, makes things way way more interesting when it's on both sides of the conflict than just a generic good vs evil notion (not that it's bad, read my fair share of those but grey spices it up a little) and Rachel Caine does a wonderful job in showing just that. The way she handled the events can make one side look totally heroic and then in another event it'll show the same side in this ugly state that it can get really confusing to morally define then. Of course, some sides tend to stick to one area more than the other but there is greyness all around in the book and I personally can't wait to see more of that in the characters themselves or the organizations.

Speaking of characters, it's difficult to hate anyone in this book who's not built up to be hated. Some were annoying for sure but total hate like you can't even stand reading their lines based on their personality? No, I thankfully didn't experience that yet. The characters are just so interesting to read about whether to discover their histories or their abilities and talents or just getting to know them better, they almost always made it worthwhile. The best thing about them though is the multinational aspect that was implemented by Rachel Caine, the Library of Alexandria is obviously in Egypt, since Jess isn't Egyptian he's going to be traveling to reach it and in the process we get to see other characters who come from different nationalities with different background, languages and culture just as you'd expect from a wildly open institute in the world. Which made me really happy to see her establish that in her book instead of a single nationality.

A small nitpick when it comes to them though is that it was very easy to tell who's staying and who's not. The Library runs on a certain selective system in Jess's "training" but even with the stakes being high and all of that, it wasn't difficult in the slightest to see how the final outcome will be like. This is only a small issue because she is creative in this selection and regardless of me seeing what I expected to see, she added enough excitement to still make me enjoy the whole thing.

The book is nonstop events, so many things are happening that it's a little hard to believe that a book that's barely 350 pages (I read on iBooks and mess with the settings a lot) managed to deliver way more of that than a book that had over 800 pages. The one thing I really appreciated about this though is that the world building does not suffer from this, she did leave a few things in the dark and raised a ton of questions for me but when it was needed, she'll spend enough time showing me the world and explaining it without making it feel too heavy or too scarce to matter. The reason I think it works so well for her is because she's got a perfect control over the pacing of the book, there are times when it's fast, it's bloody and it's exciting and there are times when it's a cool down period, when the characters are trying to make sense of the world or they're in a new place.

I'm so satisfied with this book, really. One more thing I want to mention that I absolutely loved about it is the "Ephemera" she has between each chapter that tells about an instances in a whole other place in a letter correspondence that shows how the other side act that is just fun and informative to read before continuing with the story. The third book in the series comes out on July 11th so suffice to say I'm going to head straight to the sequel and hope it's just as entertaining at this one.

Final rating: 5/5

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 6 July, 2017: Finished reading
  • 6 July, 2017: Reviewed
  • Started reading
  • 6 July, 2017: Finished reading
  • 6 July, 2017: Reviewed