Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
I picked up Ink and Bone not realizing that it was a YA read. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t know, otherwise I might have passed it by and missed out on a fantastic read. It’s an alternate reality-style fantasy story that follows Jess, a boy who was born into a book-smuggling family. He spends his childhood running illegal books for his father – original copies of books that by law, only the Great Library in Alexandria is allowed to own. The Library holds all the knowledge of the world and controls who is given access to it. The story follows Jess as he enters Alexandria to join a class of apprentice librarians where he will learn to become a scholar, but also as he becomes wrapped up in the corruption that is intrinsic within the walls of the Great Library.
I loved this book. Book about books, and all that. Since it’s written as an alternate history (hinging on the fact that the printing press was never created in the 1500s) it reads like a fantasy that isn’t overwhelmed with magic. There is some magic, but the story so far is not based around it. The story flows well and Jess is a fairly well-developed main character. He’s likeable, but he’s not perfect. He’s a teenager, but he’s not overwhelming angsty and moody. He’s brave and adventurous, but he has misgivings and questions about some of the things he has to do. And he likes books and has a connection to them that most book-lovers can relate to.
The world that has been built for this story is fabulous, and I feel like it has so much unexplored potential. I think I read that this series would be a trilogy, so I’m excited to see where it goes next in terms of setting and world-building, but I also feel like I would be happy with a dozen books set in this reality. Looking back, I think half the reason I liked this book so much was because I loved how the setting and world unfolded throughout the story.
Unfortunately, some of the characters did fall a little flat for me. While I liked Jess, and Scholar Wolfe and Captain Santi were also interesting and well written, I feel as though the author missed the mark on some of the other supporting characters, namely Jess’s classmates. Dario was probably the most developed of all the postulants, while Khalia, Morgan and Glain were kind of uninteresting. Thomas was the most disappointing, because throughout the book I kept expecting him to really develop a strong relationship and friendship with Jess. And we are told that they become great friends, but I never really grasped it. It felt a bit random to me at the end of the book when Thomas suddenly played such a big part (Yet he still played that part by not really being there). I struggled with that a bit, though it is my only complaint of the book, and wasn’t enough for me to downgrade to 4 stars.
Would I recommend this book: YES!