Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Paper and Fire (Great Library, #2)

by Rachel Caine

In Ink and Bone, Jess Brightwell learned that the shining light of the Great Library of Alexandria was an illusion ... one that hides great darkness. Now, barred from his goal of becoming a Scholar, he's determined to make his career as a High Garda soldier a success. But news that a friend may be imprisoned and suffering brings Jess back with his old companions, and to a common cause: rescue.

Failure means death. Success means that their uneasy truce with the Archivist becomes open war.

But they have a secret that may shake the very foundations of the Library ... if they dare to use it.

Paper and Fire takes us on a breathless journey from battlefields to ancient tombs, from Alexandria to Rome, and to the edge of a world that must change to survive.

Reviewed by inlibrisveritas on

4 of 5 stars

Spoiler Warning for book one! This review may have spoilers for the first book, Ink and Bone, if you are interested in starting the series I recommend checking out my review of that book instead. 

At the end of Ink and Bone, we find Jess and his friends more awake to the harsh reality of the Great Library. Jess has been a sheep amongst wolves since day one, but now things have gotten worse but he finds himself with unexpected allies.

Ink and Bone focus on the group training to become Librarians, but Paper and Fire we see them in the roles assigned to them and thrown into a situation where they are trying desperately to find a way to save one of their close friends. It's a high stakes story where it definitely seems like a cat and mouse game played by the Library and Jess. It's incredible to see a world where books play such a large part in the power balance, but it's chilling to see how far people are willing to go to maintain the heavier side of that balance. It can be nightmare fuel for those of us who love books and basically worship the idea of being able to share all knowledge with each other. I do love the unlying theme of hope however when it comes to the Library and the fact that this doesn't seem to be the typical 'destroy the government and start over' kind of story. Many of the characters still see the good of the Library and hope to change it from the inside outward, and while we don't see much of that story angle other than the desire for it I do really hope we get to see some of that in later books.

Jess continues to be a fantastic lead to follow, and I enjoy seeing his wit and charm as he navigates something almost impossibly large. In the first book we see him struggle against growing too close with anyone in the group of postulates, but in this one we see those relationships form up even tighter and that he grows to consider them family. His relationship with Morgan, especially after the end of Ink and Bone, is an interesting one as he feels (and is) responsible for her current predicament and their struggles to find a place of trust. I love that their relationship isn't perfect and has small little fractures that they have to figure out if they are willing to fix or shatter completely. We also get to see him form a friendship with Glain, who in the previous book seemed to isolate herself away from Jess and now they are forced to work closely together. She is a badass, pure and simple. She's loyal and willing to face any danger to protect her friends and charges. I love that while she has a very strict sense of duty, she isn't unwilling to open her eyes to the horrors of the Library.

If you are considering the audios for the series I whole-heartedly encourage you to check them out. Julian Eiffier is the narrator and he does such an excellent job of presenting the story. I think I much prefer the audio experience than simply reading it, so I will most likely grab book three as an audio as well.

This turned out to be an excellent continuation of the series, and I can't wait to dive into the third installment. It has such a wonderful mix of historical and fantasy elements that it doesn't feel too heavy on either, while still feeling fresh and unique. It's definitely a series to check out if you already haven't.

Last modified on

Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 16 June, 2018: Finished reading
  • 16 June, 2018: Reviewed