Off the Shelf: A Review of Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine

I was blessed beyond measure to receive an advance read copy of Paper & Fire from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can read my review of the first book in the Great Library series, Ink and Bone, by clicking here.

As someone who grew up with an immeasurable amount of love for books and reading, I remember the fiery passion with which I first devoured Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. To this day, it is still one of my favorite books, and I think the reasoning for that is because it sends a message…a message that Rachel Caine clearly communicates throughout the Great Library series as well: If you take away a person’s right to knowledge, you also take away their freedom. Nothing could ever be more effective at controlling a population.

I share Ink & Bone with everyone that I possibly can. It’s my go-to recommendation for young adult readers in the library. It’s a book that I feel very strongly about, and that I know will have a lasting impression on my life the way Fahrenheit 451 did. When I received the ARC of Paper & Fire, there was nothing that could hold me back from jumping right in, desperate to see if it lived up to the glory of book one. At the same time, I had one of the most demanding projects of my grad school career thus far due, but even that couldn’t stop me. I read the book from my phone in snippets of stolen time whenever I ate lunch, whenever I used the restroom, whenever I was fighting sleep, etc. This book absolutely lives up to the first one, if not surpasses it in greatness.


Summary (via Goodreads)

With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…

Things I Liked:

From the very first page, get ready for action. I don’t just mean that figuratively. I read the first page in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, eyes bugging out and my jaw scraping the floor. Not to be overly cliche here, but – hold on to your seats, you’re in for a ride. Something major has happened with someone I know every fan adored, so get ready to rejoice and at the same time panic for Jess and the others.

In my review of Ink & Bone, I complained that as much as I loved the book, Jess was hard to connect to, but I predicted that that might change in this book. It definitely did. While Glain and Khalila have quickly become my favorites, each embodying characteristics that I would hope to have in their situation, Jess is starting to impress me. His tricky relationship with his book smuggling family didn’t really do much for me in the first book, but in Paper & Fire, he has grown to regard it in a newer light. Brendan actually really struck a chord with me in this book, and I have a feeling he may play a much bigger role in the next book. At least, I hope so. He’s far more complicated than I would have originally thought, and he’s no longer a static character just playing in the background. He’s building depth.

The relationships, both the kind that are romantic and the friendships, are what really drive this book home. In a book with so many characters, sometimes it’s hard to feel a connection to all of them. Their voice might get lost in the sea of other voices. That doesn’t happen here. Each of the rebels stands out in their own way from Santi to Dario to Morgan. You will feel something for each of them, and you get a better understanding of the way they feel towards each other. Morgan and Jess struggle to put their pieces back together in a way that fits since they both view his actions in the previous book as a betrayal. More layers are added to Santi and Wolfe’s relationship, which I feel was further enhanced by the short stories Rachel Caine released on Wattpad in honor of National Library Week (how cool!). “Stormcrow” is a must read for any Santi/Wolfe fan, as it tells the story of how the two first met and events that would shape their relationship.

Things I Didn’t Like:

The book itself is perfection, but one thing did get on my nerves – the summary. I’d read it prior to reading the book, and I feel like it’s way too spoiler-y about what happens to our favorite group of library rebels. We know that they’re destined for failure. This failure isn’t something small that happens near the beginning. No, it’s a major failure that more than half of the book builds up to. Why is that disappointing? Because I want to root for them to succeed. Even with the odds against them, I want to have hope. Already knowing the outcome makes it stick in the back of my head, and so the entire time I was reading, I anticipated that failure, making it less of a surprise when it actually happened.

Overall Rating:

Hands down, this book is getting 5/5 from me. Perfect score. Going into it, I really didn’t think it could top the first book, but it did ten-fold. The only downside is that now I’m going to have to wait forever to get my hands on the next (and last?) book, that is, unless of course the publishers would want to give me another early read… *hint hint wink wink*

Seriously though, if you haven’t already got your hands on Ink and Bone and devoured it quicker than an Inklicker (just kidding!), you need to immediately go to your local bookstore, your local library, or order someplace where you can get express shipping…you do NOT want to keep waiting to read it. Do it now, and be ready for Paper & Fire to hit the shelves July 5th.



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