In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…
First, when I requested this book there wasn’t series information about it anywhere (at least not that I found), so I thought (silly, I know) that it was a stand-alone book. That thought probably had some effect on my final feelings and thoughts about this story.
This cover is gorgeous, beautiful, and works with the story. I’d love to see it in person and see if it has the texture that the image implies. Once seeing it and finding out that the story revolved around the Library at Alexandria surviving…I couldn’t not request it.
And I’m glad I did. It gets off to a bit of a slow start, with a lot of things that confused me. There’s names for people that do things that aren’t really explained (you do start to get the feel for them as you get further in the story), and you’re kind of tossed right in. Normally I like that. Here…well, it didn’t work as well for me. The beginning felt slow. It was setting up the world and story, I know, but a lot of it simply doesn’t make sense to me.
For example, in one of the earliest scenes in the book we find out that books are contraband. Owning a printed (hand-copied) book is illegal. So, of course, there’s a flourishing black-market trade for them. Jess is the son of one of these black-market book experts, and because of that he’s a ‘runner.’ Which basically means that he transports the books from his family’s interests to the purchasers’. The problem I had with this is that he was RUNNING everywhere to do this. Not only that, but they run in a pack – like wild animals. Huh? Doesn’t anyone understand that running draws attention to yourself? And running with a large group of other kids draws even MORE attention? Pretty damn good way to get the Garda after you, don’tcha think? Illogical actions didn’t make me have a lot of faith in the author to make things more logical.
Fortunately, for me, she did manage to pull it around and I started to have faith in the storytelling and the characters’ actions. The story is fascinating. A library – those that are supposed to allow knowledge to be at the worlds’ fingertips – is actually oppressing ideas, progress and knowledge. I still have a little trouble with the premise, but it all comes down to power. Who has it, who wants to keep it, and what they’re willing to do to meet those ends. The fact of the matter is that the Library is willing to do anything to keep their power. And that’s exactly what the postulants – including Jess – start to learn as they’re competing for positions inside the Library itself.
I definitely enjoyed this book. The story moved at a good pace, there was a lot of variety of places and things happening. There’s definitely diversity in characters and world. There’s a small romance (one that moved a bit too quickly for me even if it wasn’t the main focus of the story). There’s friendships that I hope stand the test of what’s to come. And we’re settled right on the cusp of change.
What I didn’t love so much was the simplicity of things. Simplicity is maybe the wrong word, but instead of shocking with well placed hints and drawing out the revelations, they were almost shoved in my face immediately. I had no chance to speculate and be surprised by anything because it was all revealed almost as soon as it was a thought. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it did disappoint me a bit.
I did mention that I wasn’t aware this was part of a series, so when I got to nearly 90% of the book and realized there was no way it was going to be able to wrap up satisfactorily…well I was irritated. I don’t mind “cliff-hangers”, or multi-part series. I enjoy them, and read quite a few of them (KMM, I’m still looking at you for ruining years of my life waiting on the next books in the Fever series). But this one just kind of stops. It’s not a cliff-hanger. It’s not a ‘OMG! What’s going to happen next?!’ moment. It’s just … done. And while I do want to know what happens in the next book, I’m not anxious and on the edge of my seat for it.
That being said, I am going to be putting the next book on my list. I do hope there are some surprises in store for me (and all of the characters), and that – I can’t believe I’m saying this: I get to see the Library fall.