Saturday, May 7, 2016

What we're reading: A book about books!

In Ink and Bone, author Rachel Caine rewrites history and then postulates what might have happened next. To any bibliophile, the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria was a tragedy of epic proportions. The loss of the ancient world's single greatest archive of knowledge, the idea that so many "great works of brilliant geniuses" (Orosius) didn't survive, causes anything from a wince to a fit of weeping by those lovers of antiquity who can only imagine what they might have missed by this loss.

In this, the first book of a new series, Caine lets the Library at Alexandria survive! By the present day (the book actually takes place a decade into our future), the Library and its staff have gained immense political power and influence, akin to that of the Catholic Church and a world government rolled into one. The Great Library is a looming presence in every major city, and has complete power over the dissemination of information. Through the use of alchemy, literally any work of history can be delivered to a "blank" book for any citizen to read...but the individual ownership or possession of "real" books is strictly forbidden.

The primary protagonist of the book is Jess Brightwell, whose family has for centuries been involved in the black market trade for illegal books. Jess, however, is neither qualified for nor interested in following the family trade, so his father decides that, since he's a bright boy, the best thing he can do for the family is to become a librarian! This begins his association with a motley group of other teenagers, all vying for a place in the hierarchy of the most powerful organization on earth. But what they discover is that the Great Library isn't as benign and well-intentioned as they've been brought up to believe...

I picked this up from the New Books shelf at the library because of the little gold plate on the cover that said "THE GREAT LIBRARY." I wanted to include five newish books in a painting for our teen summer reading club promotions, and since Rachel Caine is a popular author, I chose this as one of them. I hadn't read it when I painted it, but I liked the cover because of the color scheme, and the reference to a library. So I had it sitting at home after I finished my illustration, and decided, Might as well read it. I'd never read anything by Rachel Caine before, because, well, vampires (so over it), and I had no idea what to expect.

I thought this book was brilliant. The alternate history, the scene-setting, the imagery, the concepts, the characters, the action, all fully ON. Every time I had to stop reading, I couldn't wait to pick it up again. It made me late to work twice last week because I just had to read one more chapter over my breakfast cereal. I loved it so much! I'm afraid to look and see how long I will have to wait for the sequel...

Okay, I looked, July 5 is the date! But I requested a giveaway of the advance reader copy from Goodreads, so we'll see! Didn't know you could get books that way? Join Goodreads!

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