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…
THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW
First of all, yes, finally. This is a book about books but it’s more than just a shiny idea. Rachel Caine brings the whole package: a dynamic group of characters, a beautifully imagined and well-thought out world, and a swift, electric plot that all wrapped seamlessly together. A great idea brilliantly executed.
What Worked For Me
Concept • • • The Library running the world? Printed books are contraband? This was definitely something I could get behind. Because it’s a book about books, which is basically the coolest thing ever and simply can’t be topped. Also, I loved the fact that Jess was from a family of smugglers and basically sent into the lion’s den by entering into Library service. The idea was set up really well, and Rachel Caine definitely delivered on it.
Characters • • • Jess Brightwell is a daughter stealer. Combine Han Solo’s devil-may-care recklessness, slap on Luke’s schoolboy charm, and wrap it up with Leia’s brains, and you’ve got a working model of Jess Brightwell. But he’s got depth: he isn’t just a charmer. He reminds me a lot of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson with the depths of his loyalty for his friends (and maybe his penchant for getting into trouble/being at the center of a very dense web.) I like how the cast of characters had a dynamic: some were team players while some didn’t play well with others. I loved it. (Oh, and yeah, the casual inclusion of a gay couple? Yes.)
Plot • • • Even as I was in the midst of it, I was ready for another book. Swift and electric, easy to follow and yet surprising, I was engaged from the first page. This story had everything: moments that made me grin, laugh out loud, gasp, and groan in dismay. I thought it was an interesting craft choice to include “buffer chapters” that were excerpts of letters. It added a pinch of dramatic irony that, for me, helped maintain the tension.
Writing Style • • • It was nothing flashy or particularly elegant, but it was very polished. Rachel Caine’s years and years of writing definitely shine through, with its smooth competence and eye to craft. It was the kind of writing style that disappeared while I read, which is probably the best compliment you can give a writer.
World building • • • Beautiful in its delivery, horrifying for its makeup. I loved the details Rachel Caine put into her world so that it was easy for me to imagine myself in the dirty streets of London, running with Jess as he made deliveries, or in the heat of Alexandria as he went to and from class. It’s the kind of world I can imagine existing beyond what we get on the page.
Um, yeah • • • Why can’t I have book 2 right now?
The perfect package of a book, one that definitely lived up to its hype. Must have for my shelves, especially so I can go through and underline all of Jess’s smart remarks. 😉
351 pages • Book 1 • Published July 2015 by NAL