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.

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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…

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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:

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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.

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