I was very anxious to start my new year with a good book, and I decided to try Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. Now, Rachel Caine is a veteran in YA literature. She’s a #1 internationally bestselling author who has penned over forty-five novels, many of which are movie tie-ins (Caine 2015). Ink and Bone is her newest project, the first book in her Great Library trilogy. And, you know, libraries are pretty cool, so it became my inaugural book.
The basic premise: Everyone should have equal access to knowledge. How can anyone argue with that? To that accord, the Great Library of Alexandria owns all the books. ALL THE BOOKS. Owning books is illegal. Through the powers of the Obscurists, you can ‘borrow’ books from them (think magical Kindles/Nooks).
However, owning an original book means you are depriving everyone else in the world of that book, and that is very illegal. The Great Library is pretty hardcore; they have automatons and the High Garda (a private police force) that can come and do awful things to do you if you are accused of owning an original book.
The plot: As books are illegal, trading them is very dangerous but very lucrative, and Jess Brightwell spends his youth dodging the red-coats of the High Garda in London to deliver books to the rich. As he grows older, his father enrolls him to be a postulant at the Great Library of Alexandria to get him closer to more product, but to get into the library, he has to be one of six students to pass training. But even with his knowledge of the Codex and his skills from smuggling, he might not be able to live through the arduous tasks before him, and even if he does, the secret of his smuggler’s heritage could still be the death of him.
The plot gets more complicated, but, you know, spoilers.
Verdict: Ink and Bone is an alternate reality dystopian book with some low-fantasy elements. Caine has made a world that is incredibly complex, but mercifully has folded the descriptions naturally into her book so that you aren’t stuck reading huge chunks of world-building exposition Tolkien-style.
The world-building is some of the best I’ve read in a while, but the characters are what really stand out. It’s such a ridiculously colorful cast of people. Each person Jess knows or meets has distinct personalities with motivations that aren’t always obvious. As the whole book is told from Jess’s point of view, the reader gets a somewhat colored opinion of the people he meets, complete with fairly judgmental first impressions. Dario Santiago, a Spaniard who is very into wearing silk shirts and acting better than everyone else, might be my second favorite supporting character in this book. He is incredibly antagonistic but not in a one-dimensional way. There are no evil caricatures cop-outs in this book.
The only downside I can think of is that I think that while the pacing is good throughout the book, the slowest part of the books is the very beginning and the book gets so much better when Jess gets to Alexandria. That being said, London is a really important part; don’t skip it. But if you feel on the ambivalent side at the beginning, please stick through it until Alexandria. It’ll blow your mind! Want the book? You can put the book on hold here or indulge in instant gratification and just pick up the e-book!
Verdict: I give this a 5 stars of 5 stars and declare it a Top Banana book.
Caine, Rachel. “Rachel Caine – Just Beyond Normal” RachelCaine.com http://www.rachelcaine.com/
Silvia. “Books” Digital Image. http://weheartit.com/entry/179415016
Teen.com “#Readthebook” Digital Image. http://www.teen.com/2015/12/25/entertainment/best-ya-books-2015/#13