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.

 

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) Review

ink and bone

 

Book: Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)

Author: Rachel Caine

I really loved this book! It started off a little shaky for me, the first couple of chapters dragged a little, but once I got into it, which was around chapter 4 or 5, I really started to enjoy it. First off, the concept is incredible, the idea of a world where The Great Library of Alexandria survived is really cool, so immediately I was very excited about reading this book because the concept sounded so cool. Sometimes though, I get excited about a book and it turns out it’s not as cool as it sounds, I’m happy to say that this wasn’t the case with this book. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar . . . but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn. . . .

It did take me a while to get into the book, I felt like the excitement didn’t really start until Jess arrived in Alexandria, but that’s kind of understandable as the first few chapters were just about setting up Jess as a character and an introduction to his family and his world. I think the fact that the chapters were a little long also contributed to the fact that I didn’t get into the book straight away, I mean 20-30 pages is a little long for a chapter. I would almost rather that the book had more chapters and those chapters were shorter, than fewer but longer chapters. I also felt like things were phrased slightly strangely and a few times sentences seemed to be missing words, this could have been the writing style although I feel like it’s more likely to be an editing problem and I only really had a problem with this in the early chapters of the book, it disappeared later on, so it’s probably just a slight editing problem.

I really loved the characters! There was such diversity in this book which I loved, you have lots of different nationality kids in the library which I thought was really cool, you have kids from England, Wales, Spain, USA, Egypt, Arabia, so many different places, it was so nice to read a book with a really diverse cast of characters. I particularly loved Scholar Wolfe because he was incredibly complex, at first you think he’s just an ass but as the story goes on and more is revealed about his character, you realise that he’s a lot more complicated than he first seems.

I wasn’t entirely sure about Jess at first, not because I couldn’t relate to him but because he seemed to put more importance on books than people, which is understandable given the world he grew up in. However I grew to love him and feel for him. He’s kind of the strong, silent type which I really liked and obviously I connected with his intense love of books and he does show a compassionate, caring side through the book and learns that people are more important than books and not everything that the Library tells him is true. I felt for him too, given that all his life he has been used in one form or another. He has definite book boyfriend potential! It was a refreshing change having a male main protagonist in a YA book, there should be more of them! (I mean I know there are a few, but it feels like YA protagonists are predominantly female).  I liked that he wasn’t perfect, he had his flaws and I think he was a really relatable main character. I loved his banter with his roommate Dario, that was awesome and I think helped endear him to me more because I love a character with good wit and great comebacks!

I love, love, loved Jess’ best friend Thomas! He was so cute, just this big, happy, incredibly smart guy, like a teddy bear that you just want to hug. It made me so sad what happened to him at the end because he didn’t deserve that.

I liked Morgan, she was interesting and mysterious, but I kind of felt like her character could have been a bit more fleshed out, I’m hoping she will be developed a little more as a character in the next book. Khalila was pretty awesome, smart, able to hold her own and I liked that she was Arabian, because I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with an Arabian character before. In fact, I reckon given that the book was set in Alexandria, it probably could have done with a few more POC characters in there. Dario and Glain were both pretty cool too and I also look forward to seeing their characters develop in the next book.

The world building was amazing! Caine explores all aspects of the Library, how it works, the different roles within the Library, the automata, the High Garda, the burners, the smugglers and the correspondence letters between each chapter which fleshed out the characters and the world even further. I loved the idea behind the Codex, and how books were distributed through mirroring, it kind of seemed like a futuristic Kindle. I liked the steampunk elements in the book as well, in fact I got kind of confused at the beginning because I thought it was a Victorian setting, but then I realised it was futuristic steampunk and was like “oh, that’s kind of cool!”, it was great the way Caine mixed futuristic and historic elements. I loved all of the Library technology, I thought it was awesome, especially the “translation chamber”. I felt like I could really picture their world, it was described so beautifully and in such detail, the world building was definitely one of my favourite parts of the book. I loved the magic and alchemy elements with the Obscurists as well, that was really cool. I can’t wait to see more of this world in the rest of the series.

The romance isn’t a big part of this book, which I appreciated, as I’m not the biggest fan of romance in YA (which I will be doing a discussion post about in February), the book is far more plot focused than romance focused which I liked. The main romance is between Jess and Morgan, but I didn’t really feel a lot of chemistry there, it kind of felt like Jess just had a puppy crush. They did have some sweet moments but I hope that their relationship develops more in the next couple of books and starts to feel like more than just a crush. There were kind of hints about the possibility of something between Khalila and Dario but that’s not developed much either. There was a lot of development of the character’s relationships as a group, but in the next book, I’d like there to be more development between the characters as individuals, both romantically and frienship wise. My favourite romance without a doubt though, and the one that surprised me the most was the one between Wolfe and Santi because I wasn’t expecting it, but I loved it! You can tell that those two characters have known each other for years and that they really care about one another. These two had better make it to the end and I would like more cute scenes with them please! Also yay for no love triangles! I would definitely like Caine to keep that up!

I wasn’t overly keen on the competition element, if only because I found it really predictable. Only six postulants out of thirty are going to be offered places in the Library and it’s pretty obvious who are going to be offered placements right from the start, so I wasn’t all that invested in that element, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.

The Library is pretty scary, through the book you get to realise how corrupt and evil an organisation it actually is, how all they care about is power and strictly controlling people’s knowledge so that they will continue to rely on the Library rather than having ideas of their own. They kind of act as the evil government figure in this book and they sort of have a 1984 kind of a thing going on where they are secretly monitoring everyone and eliminating anyone who has ideas which are a threat to them. They’re really pretty scary, especially the fact that they’ve managed to hold onto power for so long and it’s so weird as a bookworm seeing something that you think should be good as this malevolent force but quite cool as well! I love my villains to be terrifying and the people who run the Library definitely fit the bill! I hope we get to see the Archivist Magister in the next book, because if he’s anywhere near as scary as the Artifex Magnus, then he will be brilliant! I love the way that the Library felt almost alive, as if it was a character in itself, that was amazing!

Whilst it may have initially started slow, for the last half of the book, the pace is at breakneck speed, it was really exciting and I found it really hard to put down, which I did love, although it probably would have been better if the action was more evenly spaced throughout the book, rather than all coming in the last 50% of the book.

The end felt kind of anti-climactic, I don’t know, I guess I was just expecting more of a bang at the end? Or maybe I’m just so used to beginning of series books ending on cliffhangers that it’s weird when I come across a first book in a series that doesn’t have a cliffhanger. Still, I’m very excited for the second book, so I guess this book did its job on that front!

Overall, whilst I had some minor issues with the pacing and occasionally the writing style of this book and some of the characters and their relationships could do with a little more fleshing out, the plot and the world building had a lot of promise and the book was engaging and generally enjoyable and I’m really excited for Book 2! I want to learn more about the Burners (people who burn books in protest of the Library caring more about books than human lives) and it seems like there is going to be a focus on them in the next book so I’m excited for that, but also I’m just very excited to dive back into a world and characters that I have grown to love. July cannot come soon enough!

My Rating: 4/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, a book that has had a lot of hype, so I just hope it will live up to it!