Off the Shelf: A Review of Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

Usually, I like to stick to posting reviews and such on Wednesday – a little pick me up for me on hump day when I’m struggling to make it to the weekend. I decided to wait an extra day this time – because I knew THIS would be hitting the newsstands this morning:


I’m pretty excited to have another review featured in the local paper. It’s always a big deal to me when I see my name in print. Maybe one day it will actually be about one of my own books. We will see.

Anyway, here’s the full text (which was limited to around 400 words…of course I went over) of my review, and you can also check it out on the Herald-Dispatch by clicking here:

It may be hard to imagine a librarian advocating for a book that includes a library as a nefarious, corrupt entity, but I can assure you that, not since Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, has there been a book with a more powerful message about the importance of the printed word. Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone is categorized as a Young Adult novel, but readers of all ages, adults included, will feel challenged by the heavy themes of freedom, the ties of family and friendship, and the average person’s right to knowledge.

In this alternate history, the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time and become a supremely powerful presence in every major city, controlling the public’s access to its knowledge. Personal ownership of printed books is expressly forbidden, and the Great Library controls what books can be read on each person’s Codex, a device similar to the modern e-reader. In this fantasy dystopia, people are either committed to the ideals of the Library, black market book thieves, or Burners – radical extremists who would rather destroy rare books than allow the Library to control their usage.

Enter Jess Brightwell, who believes in the Library’s values but also comes from a family of book smugglers. His conflicted loyalties are put to the test when his father pushes him into training to enter the Library’s service, expecting Jess to be a spy for the family business. Jess is fascinated by printed books and feels a natural draw towards protecting and preserving them, but the friendships he has gained in Library training and all that he has been taught to believe are suddenly challenged when Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe knowledge to be more valuable than any human life.

Ink and Bone will have even the most avid reader questioning how far they would go to protect a book and a person’s right to read, and by the end, the reader will be clutching each page just a little bit tighter.

The complex motives of certain characters and the ominous atmosphere throughout the story will keep readers anxious for Jess, and the world that Caine has created will mystify, providing a dark and intriguing backdrop for the dangers that Jess encounters.

Ink and Bone is recommended for lovers of fantasy or dystopias, but it should definitely find its way on to the reading list of anyone who possesses a deep appreciation of books in general. Fans of this new series won’t have to wait long to find out what happens to Jess and his friends – the sequel, Paper and Fire, is due out in early July.

So why didn’t I pick a review that I’d already written here on Among the Authors? Because, most of the books I’ve read lately (*cough*RavenCycle*cough*) are fairly older in terms of release date, and I wanted to pick something relatively fresh on the shelves. Ink and Bone came out in July of last year, which is still a little older than what I wanted to do, BUT it was by far the best book I read in 2015. I feel that it needs highlighted. I wasn’t paying much attention to my blog when I read it, so I never took the time to review it. Think of this as my way of making up for lost time now.

Things I Liked:
The concept. I loved this book from the moment I read the summary. I’d even preordered it at least six months in advance. Why? Because it was described as Harry Potter meets Fahrenheit 451 meets The Book Thief. All of those are winners in my book, so a book that combines them must be a winner, too, right? I certainly hoped so, and I wasn’t let down.

Scholar Wolfe. In my opinion, he’s the most intriguing character in this book. There are a lot of insights into his past, and he’s not exactly who he appears to be at first. He’s definitely one to keep your eye on.

The Burners. Political protestors that burn books, even to the extremes of being a kind of suicide bomber. I can’t quite put my finger on why I enjoyed the part they play in this world, but whatever it is, I figure that we will be seeing much more of them in the sequel. There’s still so much more that we don’t know about them.

Thomas. I won’t give away the details, but you’re going to love him. You’re going to want him to succeed. You’re going to want him to make a difference.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I could really give or take Jess. Nothing about his character really stands out to me, not in the way I was immediately immersed in Harry Potter’s life and wanted to know everything about his thoughts, feelings, what he ate for breakfast, etc. Jess just doesn’t give me that kind of feeling. There’s not much that really sets him apart. I found that I cared more about his fellow postulants and his relationships with them than I did about Jess himself. You do start getting more of a feeling for him when he puts away the fact that he’s smart and knows it, and begins actually caring about the people around him and the tests that they are enduring. I think that there’s great potential that I’m going to enjoy him more in the second book. Now that he’s knee deep in conflict, he’s got a lot riding on how he handles things as a soldier for the Great Library.

Overall Rating:

This one is definitely a 5/5. It came at a time when I struggling to find interesting new books in the YA genre. It quickly became my favorite book of 2015, with plenty of good reasons. The overall message of the book is one that I think needs to be spread, so give it a read and then share it with everyone you know! Ink and Bone sets the bar high for the rest of the series, but there’s also limitless potential for where this story could go.


“The first purpose of a librarian is to preserve and defend our books. Sometimes, that means dying for them – or making someone else die for them. Tota est scientia. Knowledge is all.”

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