'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 28 September 2015

Review: Ink and Bone (The Great Library series #1)

What if the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed? What if the knowledge contained in books was what ruled the world? What if librarians were the most powerful people on earth because they controlled the books? Welcome to Ink and Bone — where all this and more combines to create a story that I couldn't read fast enough.

Set in the near future, this is a world of war and treachery. The Great Library is now established as an independent country with its own army to protect both it and the books it contains. Ownership of private 'original' books is strictly forbidden. Originals are only allowed to exist in the Great Library, from where their contents can be downloaded via the Codex into 'blanks' for people to read. This technology is made possible by the powerful Obscurists, a special order of librarians with the innate ability to manipulate the code that underpins the system.

Of course, when anything is strictly controlled there's always a blackmarket for it. Original books are highly prized and collectors will pay a fortune to get their hands on them — which means book smugglers will risk their lives to supply that demand. Jess Brightwell is born into a family of book smugglers but he grows up craving the knowledge they contain, not the money they can bring from the right buyer. When he wins the opportunity to train at the Great Library to become a librarian — one of the elite — it's a dream come true, even if his father expects him to act as a spy for the family business there.

But Jess is not the only one of the postulants with a secret. One of them has 'Burner' ancestry — the Burners would rather burn original books than see them controlled by the Library — and one of them might be an Obscurist, who, if discovered, would be condemned to live out their life in the Iron Tower ensuring the security of the Codex. Then there's their instructor, Scholar Wolfe. He's challenged the controlling Artifex Magister on several occasions but is he the postulants' defender or betrayer?

This is a brilliantly structured, tightly plotted story. I loved the characters — all of whom are well crafted. The world-building is superb, but not at the expense of emotional realism. This is an engrossing start to what promises to be a highly original series. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year.

Title: Ink and Bone (The Great Library series #1)
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: Allison & Busby, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780749017224
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction