by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #1
Published on July 7, 2015 by NAL
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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 his friend 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…
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You would think a book about books would be a total win but I really struggled with Ink and Bone. I’ve tried reading this book several times over the years and really wanted to love it. The idea of an alternate history where the Library of Alexandria survived (THE DREAM) and you can be chosen to help protect its works sounds like the best job ever. But the execution of the story just wasn’t working for me.
I was never really grounded in the time of the story. We know it’s an alternate history from ours so things are going to obviously change. I got an ALMOST steampunk vibe but not enough that I’d actually call it that. And so I was just kind of confused the whole time and never grounded in the world, or story for that matter.
The protagonist, Jess, didn’t have a perspective on the story that I really cared about. For the most part, he seemed far less interesting than the other students, each of which had far more interesting secrets going on in the background. So I lost interest on the character side of things too.
Plus, this magic system was just. . . well I didn’t understand any of it. The entirety of the world of Ink and Bone came off as a jumble of details rather than concrete building blocks that shaped the reader’s experience through the story. Surface level, as it were. Maybe this was intentional with the expectation that everything will be explained in a later book, but that requires wanting to read the next one.
I will say that I tried this on audiobook after struggling with the eBook and neither worked well for me, which makes me think the book itself was a bad fit. The narrator wasn’t terrible or anything, so I would recommend the audio if you like the story itself. That’s where I had issues. I have no clue if I’ll ever pick up the rest of the series but they’re not high on my list.