Paper and Fire (The Great Library #2) Review

Book: Paper and Fire (The Great Library #2)

Author: Rachel Caine

I loved the first book of this series, so naturally had intended to read this book when it first came out, but of course, I got sidetracked by all the other shiny pretty books on my bookshelves and left it until now. In hindsight, I’m kind of glad I did as this book definitely suffered from some second book syndrome and I think I would have been more disappointed with that if I had read it closer to when I read Ink and Bone. It was still a very solid second book, but it definitely felt like the goal of it was setting up for the third book, so it wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping it would be. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…

With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…

I did have some similar problems with this book as with the last one. First of all the chapters. They were mostly 20-30 pages long and for me that’s just too long, my attention would be wandering before I’d even got halfway through a chapter! It also meant that I had to put the book down in the middle of a chapter sometimes, which really bugged me because it interrupted my flow of reading. I would much rather have more shorter chapters than fewer longer chapters. I also had the same problem with Caine’s writing as I did in the first book, most of the time it was fine, but there were occasions when things were just phrased a bit strangely for me. I think I’ll just have to come to accept that Caine’s writing is a little hit and miss for me, which is a shame because I love the world she’s created!

I wasn’t overly keen on Jess in the first book, at least not to start off with, but he’s really grown on me and I found myself really rooting and feeling for him in this one which I liked. I liked that Caine didn’t shy away from showing how the events that happened in the first book affected him, he went through a lot and it would have been crazy if she’d made him come out the other side exactly the same. I love the whole cast Caine has created, it’s such a diverse cast, they have such a great dynamic together and it seems like they have been friends for much longer than six months! The only character I’m still not entirely convinced by is Morgan, she still seems a little flat to me, which is a shame because she has the potential to be really interesting. I particularly loved Jess and Glain’s friendship, because yay for purely platonic male/female friendships! Also Jess and Dario’s banter was pretty fabulous.

I would have liked to have seen more of Scholar Wolfe, he kind of took a backseat in this book, which I thought was a shame as he’s one of the most interesting characters in the series. It was good to get a little more of his backstory in this book and learn more about what happened to him when he was arrested. The stuff with the Mesmer was definitely one of my favourite bits of the book! I liked that Wolfe and Santi were present though, it’s so rare to see present adults in a YA book, and they don’t look down on their young charges, they think of them as equals, which I thought was great.

There were some great action scenes in this book, but they did feel rather repetitive by the end, it was mostly Jess being chased by some automata or other. Also I didn’t feel like the book was paced well, since it seemed to go from nothing happening to action sequence to nothing happening and then all of the really exciting stuff was packed in at the end, it would have been great if the pacing was a little more even throughout the book.

I think the fact that the book was basically centred entirely on rescuing Thomas kind of hindered it a bit, because it took far too long to get to the point where they actually rescued Thomas and then the really interesting stuff with the Obscurists and the Black Archives which came in right at the end got pushed to the sidelines a little, I think it would have been much better if the rescue mission had been completed faster, as focusing the entire book on that meant that the plot moved very slowly and the book wasn’t really engaging until the characters got to Rome, a good ten chapters or so in, which is not great for a sixteen chapter book!

I loved the little ephemeras between the chapters, how they gave you hints about what was coming up, I thought they were really cool and really enhanced the book.

The romance still doesn’t entirely do it for me. I loved Wolfe and Santi once again, they’re such a cute couple, they’ve clearly been through a lot together and care for each other immensely and their romance is very believable. The younger character’s relationships, Morgan and Jess and Dario and Khalila however, felt kind of flat. I just don’t feel any romantic chemistry there at all. Maybe the author is just better at writing older character’s relationships, I don’t know, but her teen romances just didn’t seem believable at all to me.

It was interesting to learn a bit more about the Obscurists and the Iron Tower, I wish there had been more focus on that than the rescue mission for Thomas really, as it was far more interesting! I also loved that we got to see more of Wolfe’s mother in this book, but I wish she had been developed more, I feel like we hardly know anything about her. Her name also really confused me as I thought it was Keira and it turned out to be Keria, I’ve been reading it wrong this entire time!

I really loved that we got to see different settings in this book, Caine’s Rome sounded so beautiful! She’s very good at creating settings, all the places that I’ve been in this world so far have been incredibly vivid!

I thought everything with the Black Archives was incredibly cool, but again, it took too long to get there, so by the time we actually did, everything felt a little rushed, I would have liked to have spent more time there and less time on the whole planning to rescue Thomas.

I liked getting to see everyone in their new roles from the end of the last book, but it did feel like Caine spent a little long showing Jess and Glain in training, time that could have been better spent on other things.

It bugged me that despite getting seriously injured several times, Jess seemed to be able to magically get back up and be perfectly fine, five minutes after the injury! I hate it when authors make their characters superhuman!

The automata are still freaking terrifying, but I love them so much, such an awesome concept of Caine’s!

I hope Thomas plays more of a role in the next book, I understand why he wasn’t as involved in this one, given that the whole point was for the other characters to rescue him, but he’s a cute, precious cinnamon roll and I just want to see him happy damn it!

It was great to see Glain in a leadership role, we need to see female teens taking up leadership roles in books, it’s a great message to send to young girls.

I hope we get to see more of the Burners in the next book as they still seem kind of underdeveloped to me, I’d love to see more about them and their roots and their motives and everything.

The cliffhanger ending was just mean, I need to see what happens to them in the next book! I did feel like the ending was kind of rushed though, because the pace was so slow for most of the book, it felt like everything was happening way too fast at the end, if that makes sense!

Overall, this was a solid read, but did suffer a little from middle book syndrome, it felt like the author was so blinkered on the characters’ mission to save their friend, that she didn’t focus enough on other things that were actually more interesting, like the Obscurists and the Black Archives. Still it sets up the next book very well and I’m excited to see where these characters go next!

My rating: 3.5/5

The next book I will be reviewing is A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas, I’m finally getting around to it as my May #RockMyTBR read.