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. . . .
Ink and Bone is an alternate history novel, set in a world where the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed. In this world, knowledge is power and more important than anything else in the world. Because of this, the Library and its staff rule over everything and not everybody uses their power for good… The world is full of people who want knowledge to be free and accessible for everybody and rebellious groups have formed as a result of this, such as the Burners, who burn books and martyr themselves to make a point. There are also black market book smugglers who steal and sell original and unique copies of books to collectors. Jess Brightwell was born and raised in a family of book smugglers but he’s never really fit in with everybody else. One day, he’s given the chance to sit an exam to become a Scholar at the Library in Alexandria, and the story starts from there.
Knowledge is all. The Library’s motto, and this was what it meant in the real world. It meant that nothing, nothing was more valuable. Not even lives.
I really, really loved the world in this book. It was a regressed society, meaning that it’s set in the future in 2025 but almost felt like it was set in the 19th century instead. It had some really cool sci-fi and steampunk elements, with automatons shaped like lions and teleportation/translation through a ‘portal’. Each character also had a Codex, which came across to me as a cross between a book and a tablet. The characters were able to send messages to each other through the blank pages of the Codex, and it also contained the complete list of titles available in the Library. I thought it was a really unique idea and really enjoyed it. I have to admit that it did take me a while to get a good sense of the world. It was just so futuristic and historical at the same time that I had some difficulty comprehending and imagining it all at times.
The characters in this novel were absolutely magnificent. I really enjoyed Jess as a main character. There was a point in the book when I thought he was going to be the Chosen One and I shuddered a little at the thought of another Chosen One story, but I’m glad that it didn’t turn out that way. The characters were all very complex and they all had some secrets to hide, which made them very multi-dimensional and unpredictable. The diversity in the characters was wonderful. I loved that there was racial diversity as well as sexual diversity. Overall, they were characters that I enjoyed reading about and had no problem rooting for. What I had a bit of a hard time dealing with were some of the Library staff. I couldn’t really keep them straight in my head because they were referred to by their titles rather than by names. It took me almost the whole book to remember what their role was and whether they were good or evil.
For me, the world and the characters definitely the standout aspects of this book. While I really enjoyed the plot, I was missing a little bit of the ebbs and flows that we usually see in story arcs. There wasn’t a climax or resolution and I just wanted the book have more of a build up of intensity. I loved what I read but it all felt a little bit flat, which stopped me from being super excited and invested in the book. It almost felt like the book was cut off before the excitement began. I am in a slight reading slump, so maybe that’s just me not really feeling excited to read in general.
What I also didn’t really like in this book was the romance. I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t see a lot of development so it almost felt like it came out of nowhere. There was definitely some attraction and interest, but they went from just chatting like friends to kissing and it just didn’t feel genuine to me. The romance is a pretty small part of the book though, so it didn’t bother me too much.
Despite the little problems that I had with the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t a book that was on my TBR but I’m glad that it was recommended and pushed to me.