Hey, RoloPoloians!! Today, I am shaking things up a little bit with my reviews of Rachel Caine’s first two books in The Great Library Series. Here’s how this shake up came to be: when I finished Ink and Bone the first time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it so naturally, I texted my best friend, Margaret. I didn’t want to influence her opinion so the only thing I told her was “this is a really slow starter but stay with it and let me know what you think.” Three days later, we were furiously texting back and forth about the book and I asked her if she would be willing to do a conversation about the book with me here at RoloPoloBookBlog. So, with that explanation in mind, please welcome my best friend, Margaret to RoloPoloBookBlog and I hope you enjoy our conversations/reviews of these two books 🙂
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…
**PLEASE NOTE: THIS TYPE OF REVIEW CAN BE/IS A BIT SPOILERISH**
Your favorite(s) character(s) and why?
RPBB: The first time I read this I came away loving Wolfe and Jess. The second time I read this, I came away loving Wolfe and Jess even more. Wolfe is such a weird blend of awful and awesome in the beginning but as the story unfolds and I learned more about him, I really came to like him and better understand both his words and actions. Even after all he has been through, Wolfe is still an honorable man and he is still standing despite all that has been done to and taken from him. Santi is his balance, his true North and I think that helps keep Wolfe in line. He is a natural rebel and ridiculously intelligent which makes him a threat. I think he would have been dead long ago if it weren’t for his mother and Santi.
Jess is honorable and loyal to a fault. Despite his background, his family Jess always does what he believes to be the right thing. He assesses each situation and then acts rather than just doing what his father (and extended family) would want him to do. Like Wolfe, Jess is ridiculously intelligent and has a load of common sense which makes him, also like Wolfe, a threat. He is beyond good in a scrape and does all he can to help/protect his friends.
C43DX: Wolfe and Santi…they make such a cute couple. Now there is a background story that I would LOVE to read. Wolfe’s character is such an interesting mix of good and bad that I think a lot of people can relate to him. And Santi is just awesomness wrapped up in a High Garda uniform.
RPBB: UGH, the ink lickers!!! Those guys (and girls??) are some kind of weird. They seem so devoted to their personal cause and that’s the part that icked me out the most. Who the hell eats a rare and precious book???
C43DX: The automata. I love those things. I want to know so much more about them. How do they tick? What powers them? What are they detecting that sets them off that they attack the innocent as well as the guilty?
Your least favorite character(s) and why?
RPBB: It’s not so much a single person but an entity for me. The Library is my least favorite character and yes, it feels icky typing that J The Library was meant to be something amazing for the world but has become nothing more than an outdated, backward, and power-hungry entity that will do whatever is necessary to retain their power and position. The hiding of knowledge, the killing of innocents, the crushing of imagination and creativity is horrifying.
C43DX: The book burners. Suicide bombers have no place in society no matter the oppression of the government or political statement they want to make. There is nobility in giving your life to a cause, but not in that form, not ever.
What was the saddest moment(s) in the book for you?
RPBB: Both times I read this book, the saddest moment was the same for me, the interview of Thomas just before his death. Thomas was such a kind, sweet soul who sought to do nothing more than help the Library. He truly loved the Library and wanted to see it survive, become better. You can clearly see in his pre-death interview he had no ill intentions toward the Library, only a desire to do good. Killing Thomas was soul-crushing and his friends’ reactions reinforce that feeling.
C43DX: When I came to the realization about how corrupt the Library had become, and to what extent they controlled the spread of and access to knowledge for the explicit purpose of maintaining power.
What is the book’s best quality?
RPBB: The originality of the story!! There’s nothing else like The Great Library series right now with its blend of steampunk and history all jumbled up into a completely original and fictional tale. It’s a complex story that doesn’t hit you over the head with the obvious and I like that. I very much appreciate that I can still be surprised and delighted by an author and a story.
C43DX: Definitely the originality of the story. This book did an awesome job exploring deeper concepts such as the interplay between knowledge, power, and wisdom as well as the fine line between government over-site and government oppression. Too many books revolve around who is dating who and angst from unresolved love triangles. Holy hell, it’s good to find a book that focuses on something other than why that boy over there doesn’t like me.
What is the book’s worst quality?
RPBB: It’s a damn slow starter. I’ve read this book twice now and both times I didn’t feel like the story really started rolling until about 1/3 of the way through. I think a lot of readers will give up on this read because of its slow start and that’s unfortunate because it really is an excellent read overall.
C43DX: In the beginning I was worried about how superficial the characters appeared, but then I got to know them better. I’ll be honest. I like a bit more world building in the beginning, even when that does lead to a slower start. There was just enough different from this world that I wanted explored in more detail. It got there in the end.
Did anything really surprise you in this read?
RPBB: So many things surprised me in this book. For example, Wolfe and Santi’s relationship (which I LOVED!!), Wolfe’s lineage (oh, really??), Morgan and the extent of her abilities (Holy crap!! That girl has power!), and the ephemera (there’s A LOT of information in there). There were so many twists and turns that really delighted me as I read this book.
C43DX: The fact that the library had corrupted personal journals to spy on EVERYONE!!! That was so awesome! Not that I would want that to happen, but seriously…isn’t that just what social media does? In all honestly there were a lot of things that surprised me in this book, which made it such a wonderful read…I can’t wait for the next one!
The Bottom Line (aka: your overall impression/feelings about the read)
RPBB: I finished this book and immediately texted Margaret and asked her to read it. I told her nothing about the book other than it’s a slow starter and not to give up. I thought I liked it but wasn’t entirely sure and wanted her feedback. After I thought more about the book, heard from Margaret, and read it a second time, I realized how much I really enjoyed this book. There’s a lot going in this read that makes it a winding and complex tale. All those threads that you think are going to just hang loose eventually come together to create a truly wonderful thing. The writing is solid, the characters are strong (even the icky ones), and the pacing is good once you get past the first third of the book. This is a book I can see making my TopTen of 2016 list and that surprised even me 🙂
C43DX: I read this book in one go immediately after RPBB texted me about it. She has truly never steered me wrong, but I felt that this particular book slapped me upside the head with it’s originality. I like books that make me think about them long after I set them down, and this is one of the few that have done so.
With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good. Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart. Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London. But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…
**PLEASE NOTE: THIS TYPE OF REVIEW CAN BE/IS A BIT SPOILERISH**
How do you feel about the placements/assignments each of the core group received from Scholar Wolfe?
RPBB: Scholar Wolfe is a mother effing genius!! Khalila and Dario were meant to be Librarians and Wolfe is so very aware of that. His placement of them is not only appropriate but very clever. Those two know how to poke around, ask questions, and do research without drawing suspicion. Glain was born to be a soldier so her placement just made sense and while it seems like Wolfe is totally screwing Jess with his placement, he is, in fact placing Jess (and everyone else) in a position to do the most good for himself and his friends. The High Garda may be a 24/7 gig but Jess finds ways to carve out some time for himself and do some work related to finding Thomas. In so many ways, the High Garda is the perfect place for Jess.
C43DX: The first three are obvious placements. There is no where else they could have been placed. Jess is another issues. I was flat out surprised that Jess got a copper bracelet and only a one-year contract. I am still mulling over why. Wolfe knew that Thomas was alive…or at least had an extremely strong suspicion. Jess was directed to spy on Wolfe by the Artifex Magnus, so it would make sense that Wolfe would want him as far from the library as possible. But, Wolfe made that placement before Thomas was taken, and before the Artifex Magnus made Jess his spy. Unless Wolfe had a way of changing Jess’s commission that morning, he had another purpose for placing Jess in the High Garda. I wonder if his ties to his family were the reason, if Wolfe was attempting to put Jess in a position where his family would have no use for him and hopefully eventually write him off.
The overall tone of this book is pretty dark/ominous. How did that work for you?
RPBB: From the very beginning, this book feels tense, anxious. I always felt as if the ax were just about to fall and another head would roll. Because of this, the book reads quickly and allows for very few breathers in between disasters. Normally, I find this distasteful in books but it works here and it kept me totally engaged through both readings.
C43DX: This is the type of book I like. I like the jumping from one disaster to the next, especially when it flows as well as it does in this book. It makes the resolution all that more enjoyable. . . if done right. It’s like hitting yourself with a hammer…it feels so good when you stop. The problem with this book is that they jumped into the next disaster and the book ended….arghhhhhh. When is the next book coming out?
Any new favorite characters in this read?
RPBB: Hmm?? I can’t say anyone new emerged for me in this book but I can say my love of a few characters from the first read was totally reinforced. I am still slutty in love with both Wolfe and Santi and devoured every moment of their time together. They are two halves of a whole and now the whole group knows it. Santi isn’t effing around where Wolfe is concerned and Wolfe is clearly devoted to Santi; I love the strength of their relationship even in the face of so much awful.
Jess is still a favorite as well and I liked the evolution of him in this read. He was already fiercely loyal but circumstances in this read allowed him to prove that to his friends or, those he now considers his family. Jess is brave and strong and once he sees both Thomas and Morgan’s individual situations, he vows to protect them from those horrible fates. It’s hard to dislike a guy with such strong convictions and devotion to his friends.
C43DX: Thomas has become one of my favorites. Don’t get me wrong Santi still holds that special place in my heart of mostest favorite. In this book Thomas is showing much more character as someone with hidden strengths and compassions. I can’t wait to see how he develops next.
Any new dislikes in this read?
RPBB: The Iron Tower (see below) and Jess’s actual blood relations. It’s pretty stunning how truly wretched and awful Jess’s dad and twin brother are. It is a wonder Jess has any sense of right and wrong or the level of compassion and devotion he does have. Jess certainly didn’t learn those things from his father and brother. The last few major scenes with Jess’s family certainly made their position toward Jess clear and I’m so glad Jess was able to reason and choose wisely.
C43DX: I have to disagree….slightly. I think that there are hints of redemption in Jess’s brother. He did not have to leave his girlfriend in Alexandria, he could have used her until she was a broken wreck and discarded her when he was finished. That was his original plan. At the end, there was a glimmer that he wanted to help Jess out. Remember he was under the thumb of their father for many more years than Jess was. Those are not shackles that are easily thrown off. I believe that he has been misunderstood his whole life…I also believe that he is a selfish little shit, but I see a glimmer of redemption in his future, and aren’t we all looking for just a little bit of forgiveness.
The Archivist holds the top mark for most disliked. He displaced the Artifex Magnus by ordering the burning of the black archives. Even though the Artifex Magnus lit the fire, he was physically sick for having to do it. The Archivest showed no remorse.
The Iron Tower?
RPBB: WOW!! This place is a piece of work and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way at all. As Morgan so concisely points out, it is a very pretty prison. I didn’t think I could dislike something more than the Library but there are so many secrets and wrongs contained within the Iron Tower that it was hard to muster up any feelings other than hatred. The biggest surprise is Wolfe’s mother and how she has simply gone along with the program despite what’s been done to her son and so many others throughout history. The confinement, the control, and the breeding program are simply disgusting and I can’t wait to see that place fall.
C43DX: Pretty prison, breeding program and all that…yeah, not a nice place. Home of the black archives….WOW! The thought of something like that existing. How many times did the printing press get invented and snuffed out before the idea got out and contaminated the world with its presence? How may other ideas? How many lives lost to history? Even before it was burned, I was horrified to think of how many of those earlier works would have been lost just through neglect.
Favorite moment(s) in this read?
RPBB: There are a couple of moments that really stand out for me in this read: 1) When Thomas is finally rescued from the prison beneath the Basilica Julia and, 2) when Santi threatens to kill Wolfe’s mother should she betray and/or hurt him again.
C43DX: It wasn’t so much a favorite moment in the story line, it was more an epiphany I had while reading. I love to be surprised, and this was a surprise. I read on a Kindle. It’s convenient, it’s light….it makes a great paperweight when I forget to charge it. When I was reading this book on my kindle I kept coming across Jess’s descriptions of how it felt to handle original books. The feel of the bindings, the smell of the paper, the originality in the ink and the lettering, how it was so different from a blank where the content may be identical, but the spirit and soul of the book were just not there. I realized that I was reading on a blank. Walk into any library or used book store and there is almost a physical force impacting all your senses. That is not a feeling you could ever get from holding a tablet.
Least favorite (saddest) moment(s) in this read?
RPBB: Ironically, one of the saddest moments in this read is also one of my favorite moments. Thomas’s condition when he was finally rescued was just heartbreaking but the moments after may have been even worse. Thomas endured a particularly awful sort of hell while imprisoned and though he tries to behave normally around his friends, it is clear his spirit was broken while in prison. He is so thin and weak, and even the most mundane things, like food are now tainted for him. I can’t wait for that kid to get it together and work as an instrument of the Library’s destruction!
The burning of the Black Archives. I damn-near cried when all those centuries of knowledge and innovation went up in flames. Sadder though was the fact that the Black Archives even existed and the lives that had been snuffed out because of a desire to improve the world. They may as well have burned the authors alongside their works 😦
C43DX: The burning of the black archives, but it was so well written. No matter how corrupt the Artifex Magnus was, it tore his soul to burn those books. The second saddest moment was the loss of Thomas’s lion. I swear I love those automata. I like to think that they are powered by the souls of dead obscurists.
Lots of loyalties and friendships are tested in this read. Thoughts?
RPBB: The core group was so strong at the end of book one but moving forward, they all know they are in constant danger which makes them hyper-vigilant and super-paranoid. Every action, every word is suspect even among friends and trusted allies. It makes me sad to see the group turning on one another but they are all smart enough to see the hand of the Library in the mix.
C43DX: One of the main themes in this book appeared to be betrayal and how the characters dealt with it. Are you following orders, such as with Tariq and Jess? Are you protecting someone you love from yourself, as with Brenden and Neksa? Are you being abandoned by your family due to rules, as with Wolfe and his mother or expediency as with Jess and his father? Are you betrayed by an institution or ideal, Thomas and Wolfe with the Library? Are you being forced into it by forces stronger than yourself as Dario and the group? The big question is how each of the characters deals with the betrayals. Do they forgive, become embittered, vow to change the establishment. If you think about it, we are all often put into positions where we will let someone we know down. Some of those positions we put ourselves in, some we have absolutely no control over. What I got from these books was that if we truly care for someone and we truly value the relationship, we can remedy a large part of the damage from these betrayals by communication.
The Bottom Line (aka: your overall impression/feelings about the read)
RPBB: Just like book one, I read this twice and I fell a bit more in love with it the second time around. There really is a little bit of everything in this story: romance (old and new), mystery, adventure, danger, and more drama than should be legally allowed. I devoured every word, page, and chapter of this book though not in the icky ink licker kind of way J Though Paper and Fire doesn’t end on a cliffhanger per se, it also very clearly isn’t the end of the line and I want more right the hell now!!
C43DX: This book definitely moved much quicker. I was audibly groaning when I reached the end because I knew it would be awhile before the next one came out.
About the author and where to find her:
Rachel Caine’s rich, diverse bibliography of more than 45 books in print covers many categories and genres. She started out writing horror and fantasy as Roxanne Longstreet (Stormriders, The Undead, Red Angel, Cold Kiss, Slow Burn) before switching to the name Roxanne Conrad and publishing romantic suspense and mystery (Copper Moon, Bridge of Shadows, Exile). By 2003, she began to publish under her current pseudonym, specializing in urban fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal young adult fiction. She has been writing original fiction since the age of fourteen, and professionally published since 1991. She graduated from Socorro High School in El Paso Texas (where she was a UIL all-state champion in music and journalism) and went on to earn an accounting degree from Texas Tech University. She played professionally as a musician for several years once out of college, but ultimately gave up the music for writing. She’s had a varied “day job” career, including web design, graphic arts, accounting, payroll management, insurance investigation, and (most recently) corporate communications and crisis management. (It all counts as research.) Rachel loves reading, writing, and mild amounts of arithmetic when required … but she has a special place in her heart for history, music, and science, and you’ll find those themes in many of her works. A full bibliography and press kit is available here as a PDF. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
**All information in this section and the image are from the author’s website**