Thursday, June 16, 2016

What we're reading: YA series for bibliophiles!

Periodically, I blog here about young adult books or series that may have adult appeal, and the new series that begins with Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine, is one such.

To any bibliophile, the destruction 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 series, Caine rewrites literary history by allowing the Library at Alexandria to survive, and then postulates what might have happened next.

By the present day (the book actually takes place a decade into our future, although it's a weirdly old-fashioned and steam-punky rendition), 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 literary work 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 to read 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 the cover of the teen summer reading log, 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, most of her other books involve 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.

Fortunately, it's not too long until the sequel, Paper and Fire, comes out (July). I will be the first adult on the holds list--you can be the second!

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