on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
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In 48 AD, a fire set by the troops of Julius Caesar destroyed much of the Great Library of Alexandria. It was the first of several disasters that resulted in the destruction of the accumulated knowledge of the ancient world. But what if the fire had been stopped? What would the Library have become? Fast forward: the Great Library is now a separate country, protected by its own standing army. It has grown into a vast power, with unquestioned and unrivalled supremacy. Jess Brightwell, seventeen and very smart, with a gift for mechanical engineering, has been sent into the Great Library as a spy for his criminal family.
The Library owns all the books in the world. Every person has access to any book she wants through a blank which is basically an e-reader. However, no private citizen is allowed to own paper books. Once this restriction was put in place, a thriving black market in paper books sprung up. The Brightwell family runs an underground book smuggling operation out of London.
Jess has been running books since he was a child. However, his father doesn’t think he is ruthless enough to take over the family business. He likes the product too much. Jess’ brother has more of a feel for the illegal business.
Jess’ father buys him a chance to apply to work in the Library. All of his reading comes in handy and he does very well on the placement test. He moves on to the second stage when applicants from all over go to Alexandria for practical training.
Working in the library is dangerous work. Burners attack Library outposts trying to make the ownership of books a right. Smugglers are always trying to steal books. It turns out that the Library has some dangerous secrets of its own too.
I loved this first book of The Great Library series. The best and brightest young talent is gathered in Alexandria to compete for a placement in the Library in a contest that is a lot more dangerous than you’d think working in a library would be.
The world building is interesting. What would a thousands of years old magical bureaucracy look like? If knowledge is power and the Library controls all the knowledge, can anyone stand up to it?
One of my major criticisms of YA books is that the teenage protagonists are always smarter than the adults. This book was a nice change of pace. Jess slowly learns that there is more going on in Alexandria than he is privy to and that the adults around him are knowledgeable. They have distinct motivations that started long before the main character of this book showed up. He isn’t a bright little flower who decided to take on a system that everyone else was blindly going along with before he came along.
My other complaint about YA is forced romance. This book avoided that too. There is a little bit of romance that could have easily been left out but at least stays mostly out of the way of the story. There is no swooning that makes everyone incapable of doing anything but staring at each other. Actually, an adult romance is more important to the plot. The teen relationship may progress in later books.
There was an ending to the story. I hate it when a book serves as just a set up for the next book. It is obvious that there is room for a next story here but the major conflicts in this book are resolved. I appreciate that.
Have any of you read Ink and Bone yet?