My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received an uncorrected proof through Goodreads First read program. It will be released on July 7th, 2015.
When I received a copy of Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine I was extremely excited. Something thrilled me. It was a book about books categorized as science fiction and fantasy. I was intrigued. I didn’t even know what it was about. I was just so quickly sold on wanted to read this. I was very excited. I’m so glad that this book didn’t disappoint. It delivered a fast paced story shrouded with intrigue and mystery. I need to note that this book elicited reminders of other series, in particular Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Red Rising.
This book took me a week to read. However, that is a testament to how good it was because I was slumpy and playing Arkham Knight and really wanted nothing to do with reading at all. Yet, every time I picked up Ink and Bone I didn’t want to put it down. It got me through my reading slump in a time other books couldn’t and it was entertaining.
The story centers around a 16 year old named Jess Brightwell. He is from a family of smugglers, who’s business is selling and running books to clients. It is highly illegal, but Jess is good at his job and unlike his twin brother he is more obedient to his father’s whims. The problem for Jess is that he loves books. Often he find himself drawn to reading and learning from them rather than them just being an object of trade. That’s not to say Jess’s father is some idiot. It’s really enjoyable to see that he is a smart well read man, but he puts the trade before the books. Jess’s father seeing his sons inclinations orders him to take the test to become a scholar. This would place Jess in a position to steal books from the Library far easier and aid the business. It is when Jess is accepted and whisked off to Alexandria to study to become a scholar that the story really begins and things get interesting.
That said, as you can probably tell this story unfortunately suffered from a lot of build up. It was all to service character introduction, development, and worldbuilding, but that meant a slow, but interesting start. There just wasn’t a whole lot of plot related events going on that could make some with less patience irritated with this story. It does quickly move past that once Jess is at the Institute and vying for one of the coveted 6 positions. Though one could argue that even the early bits of his time at the Institute was also filler, however there were a number of things that inform later events that were well seeded early on.
I’ve briefly touched on this, but I really have to give a nod to the worldbuilding in this book. In some ways I was extremely impressed by what was done to build this world. However, in some other aspects it was somewhat lacking. This is an alternate history story in which the Alexandria Library never burned, but rose to power. The Library doesn’t control the world, but it is damn close. It has almost endless power. Yet, the Library is this nebulous organization. We don’t know much about it. We see that it has power and can strike fear into the commoners. It is rebelled against. It is honor. It is power. The story does a great job of highlighting it’s role in the world as we learn more and more about it. Even by the end of the novel, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the secrets the Library holds, but I do have a solid understanding of what it is potentially capable of. Unfortunately, like I said, not everything is great with the worldbuilding. There were times where I felt lost in the world. There is a sense that this world may be slightly steam punk with the mention of various things including the automata beasts that work on behalf of the library. Yet, this picture isn’t fully painted. I can’t tell if this is a truly steampunk world ala Victorian setting. I seemed to get a vibe that it was relatively present day with slightly different scenery. I wasn’t sure, because that wasn’t well developed.
When I started this book, I was not expecting a boarding school feel. It was something that I realized I really wanted and hadn’t had in quite a while. This novel does give you those feels for a period in the story as Jess arrives at the Institute. He’s suddenly surrounded by this varied cast of characters with very unique personalities. It was a joy to get to know them even if some didn’t make it. My two favorites ended up being Thomas and Dario. Each of them felt just as much fleshed out as Jess. The only problem is sometimes this characters would get brushed aside in favor of a storyline that didn’t work for me.
This was a book with enough problems going on that I didn’t need the romance. In fact, I don’t think the romance was even remotely necessary. This is mainly because this story isn’t the kind of story that relies on a romance. It felt wedged in unnecessarily. I liked both characters involved in the particular romance, however it didn’t feel as genuine as another romance that was briefly touched upon. My real problem with the romance was that it didn’t feel earned and they lacked chemistry. I believed that the character in question cared for the other, but as a friend. It never jumped to that next level. The story line would have been just as impactful (I like using non-word words) if it was just a friendship. Honestly, I would have bought that a lot more than the romance.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed this novel. There was a lot going on and we really only scratched the surface of the world. There are a number of open threads with this novel. While a major element of this novel was closed, there were so many strings that had unwound and evolved during this novel that I can not wait to get my hands on this novel. While, I didn’t really enjoy this novel it certainly wasn’t perfect. It did seed a world and storyline that I feel I could invest in. Honestly, I keep thinking about this book and the commentary on oppression and war. It’s not super deep, but it’s very much appreciated that the content of this story is there for you to question and challenge the world around you if you so choose. At the end of the day this novel was one that managed to speak to me. It’s definitely one that I will look forward to continuing on in the series. If this book was any indication, it will only get better as time goes on.