I had a hard time getting into this book – so much so that I almost DNF’d it at like 4%, but once it gets going WOW. Ink and Bone presents a strangely savage dystopian world ruled by The Great Library (yes, of Alexandria). In this version of history, The Great Library was saved from the fire that in our world destroyed it, and then it retaliated against those who sought to burn it down and became the most powerful force in the world.
The scholars who run the library decide what books are okay for public consumption, and hide anything that seems too “dangerous” to them. No one is allowed to own print copies of books, instead each and every person around the world has access to a codex, a pseudo-magical device that resembles an e-reader and allows people to read only what the library deems appropriate. The library may be powerful, but it does face opposition from book smugglers who trade rare print editions of books and burners, who (you guessed it) burn them.
Jess comes from a family of book smugglers, but he’s more interested in reading the rare books his father deals with than in selling them off the highest bidder. So when his father ships him off to train to become a novice in the service of The Great Library, he doesn’t complain. After all, at the Library he’ll be able to read more books than he’d ever get his hands on smuggling, and he can help protect those books from burners who want to destroy them forever.
Of course, this would be a pretty lame dystopian if there wasn’t a TON of corruption within The Library’s ranks, and Jess soon finds himself enmeshed in controversies and struggles for power that may very well get him killed.
I think part of the reason the first half is so slow is that the author is really trying to build up this dystopian-futuristic-sci-fi-fantasy world and it’s really hard to explain what the heck is going on. There is a LOT of world building crammed into this book, and to be honest, learning the ropes of it was by far the hardest part of the reading experience for me.
Luckily, by the second half things start heating up fast, and the plot becomes so freaking delicious. I couldn’t put it down once I got about halfway through. It was enough to propel what might have otherwise been a lowish 3-star rating up to a 4-star one. Because the plot is so great.
Evil librarians. (Not to be confused by the YA book called Evil Librarian, which is amazing) The librarians in this book are terrible. Like, they do BAD S*** all the freaking time in the name of “preserving knowledge” when you know all they’re really trying to preserve are their own self-interests and power. They do things in this book that made me cringe so hard.
Scratchy and loveable mentors. We’re talking a Haymitch-kind of character here. Wolfe, Jess’ teacher at the library is so gruff and mean while still managing to turn into one of my favorite characters of the book. He’s a big softie inside and he’s got a ton of hidden depth. Basically, he’s an adorable iceberg, and I loved him so so much.
A huge and exciting cast of diverse supporting characters. While Jess is from London, many of his classmates come from all over place – there’s Khalila, who comes from the middle east, Dario, who hails from Spain, Thomas who is German, and Glain, Jess’ welsh rival. Together, they make up a great team of witty students, and their banter was perfect.
CLIFFHANGER ENDINGS. The ending of this book is AWFUL (in a good way) so you might just want to have the second book at the ready. I’m so glad I was able to jump straight from one to the next, or that ending might have killed me.
This may not be the quickest read, and the world does take some getting used to, but I adored the storyline, and couldn’t get over how awesome the concept is. This is a very unique read, and one I’d recommend to readers willing to put in a little extra effort to get through the slower parts.
Rating: 4.3/5 stars