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Ink and Bone: The Great Library (Book 1)

Rachel Caine has refined the way you will look at books and the world in the first book of her new Great Library series, Ink and Bone. In this world, the Great Library of Alexandria was protected and so the knowledge of the ancient world was never lost. You’d think that this would be a good thing as people could have learned from those works, but as they say, "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." With full control over pretty much all the available knowledge in the world, the Library becomes the world’s most powerful organization, complete with full autonomy in every country around the world. By the year 2031, which is where the majority of the story takes place, people are not allowed to own their own copies of books. All Libraries are daughter libraries of the Great Library. They are also known as Serapeum. All books are stored in the Library of the city, which has its own police force and even automatons to protect the contents. There are always ways around these things though, which brings us to Jess Brightwell.

The Brightwell family of London have been black market book dealers for many, many years. As a young child, Jess risked life and limb to deliver these stolen, coveted books to anyone who could pay the delivery fee. When he comes of age, Jess doesn’t really want to take over the family business. He feels his twin brother Brendan (younger by minutes) is much more suited for the task. To make him earn his keep, Jess’s father decides that given his love of books, Jess belongs working in the Library. From there, he can help the family with knowledge of raids and such from time to time. Jess is shocked by this suggestion, but also intrigued. It would let him do what he has always wanted to, spend time with books. Jess’s life is forever changed by this new adventure.

Jess has to take a long train ride across many countries to get to the Great Library to start his training. On the train, he meets several people, including Thomas Schreiber and Khalila Seif, both from Germany. Khalila is the first person ever to score a perfect score on the entrance exam. Just as the train is pulling out, a woman named Glain Wathen lands on Thomas and Jess. She’s Welsh, and since they’re at war with England, she hates Jess immediately and storms off. Once they get to their rooms, Jess’s roommate, Dario Santiago, takes an instant dislike to Jess as well, simply for the fact that Dario expected a private room and Jess was assigned to share the room with him. Life isn’t easy at the Great Library. Scholar Christopher Wolfe is in charge of their education and he’s definitely a strict instructor. Candidates are eliminated very quickly, but given that there were about 30 to start and only 6 positions at most to fill, you would expect that. Of course, Jess and his group (of friends and enemies) manage to stick it out. A couple of weeks in, a new student shows up, Morgan Hault. She says that she was delayed because of the Welsh seize of Oxford. Jess feels an immediate connection to her.

Things get even more hectic when Wolfe is ordered to take the remaining nine students into the middle of the English/Welsh war zone, to Morgan’s hometown of Oxford, to save an uncovered cache of books. It’s a very dangerous journey and not all of them will make it back alive. The ones that do make it back have definitely been changed, but the group has come together to support each other. Even though they thought the war was the worst they were going to face, the Great Library isn’t safe for all of them either.

I have never read any of Ms. Caine’s other works, but I was extremely impressed with this new series. She has a way of keeping the story flowing so that you really can’t stop reading. I was worried at the beginning as the train ride was starting to feel a bit Harry Potter-ish, which continued with students living together to learn from a gruff master, but really, the similarities end there. Somewhere just after they get to the Great Library, I never thought of Potter again. Caine has a style all her own. She concludes Ink and Bone at a very logical place. This story feels complete, but there is definitely one major thread left hanging that makes me crave the next volume in the series. Let’s just hope it comes out soon. If you’re looking for an intriguing world with fascinating characters, check out Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone today!

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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