Book Review: INK AND BONE by Rachel Caine

Knowledge is power, and Ink and Bone is powerful

**Ink and Bone was given to in exchange for an honest review**

Imagine a world where actual physical, tangible books are so sacred that only the Great Library can possess it.  Imagine that it would be illegal to possess a physical book, especially since most would be rare, that death could be the punishment of having such an item in your home.  Imagine that sometimes those who possessed such an item would destroy an only copy of it just because they had the power to do so and it was theirs to do as they wished.  Could you imagine if that were the only physical copy of, say, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and someone tore it up and just started literally eating the pages of that one book right in front of you and there was nothing you could do about it?

If you have a look for physical, printed books, then you would know how horrifying such a world would be.  And that is what Ink and Bone is about.  Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine takes place in what I would consider a parallel universe where books are rare items that only the Great Library of Alexandria (which no longer exists in our world) or its daughter libraries throughout major cities can be legally kept.  To have one is illegal and punishable by death.

But, with such a rare commodity, there are those who wish to possess them nonetheless and there are those who seek to profit by them, or to make a statement by them.

We are brought into this world through the eyes of Jess Brightwell, and young man who, at an early age, witnessed something horrible, at least in his mind, to a one-of-a-kind book.  Even before then, though, he had respect for the hand-written words on paper.  For the smell of the ink and the leather bindings and the care given to them upon handling.  That made him unique as well, for his family was more into the moneymaking part of it through the black market of book smuggling, including his father and twin brother.

But things change for Jess when, during a time of war between his homeland of England and the neighboring Wales, he’s forced to go to Alexandria, Egypt to train to be a scholar, a person who serves the Library.  His father wishes to use Jess to obtain valuable books, something that puts him at great risk.  Jess is used to this, though, but as he starts to form relationships with his mates in training, he realizes that, although the Library seems to do a great service by keeping rare books safe ━ especially from the hands of those who seek to destroy the Library ━ they hide a great deal more.

The Library provides the books to the people through a Codex, much like our own electronic portable devices, in which you can also write in your own personal journal and where the Library keeps a record of it.  But the Codex can also give the Library the power to limit what information is given, among other things.


Now this story, you’ll find, serves to impact the way we view books and how we read them.  Especially because more and more people are reading from e-readers and their portable devices instead of from actual books. There are many things that run differently there than they do here, so I will try to limit the comparisons to avoid spoilers.

One thing to note about the pacing of the book is that it’s not your regular action-adventure type of story. This is not the type of book that you can just skip the details just to read the character’s lines.  There’s a lot to take in and a good amount to think about, and for that, I loved the pacing of it.  It didn’t feel rushed and it wasn’t too wordy, either, in having to give us a visual and a real sense of how this world operates.  Maybe it’s because I have a genuine interest and love for physical books that this story kept me engrossed.

The characters also pulled me in, especially Jess.  He’s an intriguing character, because although he comes from a family that does something against the Library’s laws, we want to see where this road leads him and if he’ll find a place in the Library or if he’ll get caught or if he’ll have to run for it.  His fellow trainees, are wonderfully diverse in race and in mind, and it’s wonderful to see how each interact with each other, oftentimes not necessarily in a positive manner.

Even their teacher, or Scholar, is initially thought of a certain way, and as the story goes on, you realize there’s more to him than initially impressed upon by the students, or postulants in this series.

I found Rachel’s way of telling this story to be very smart and sophisticated, but like I said, not too wordy, and although adventurous at times, even the times of conversation between the characters and the development of each one of them kept me interested.

Whether you read this story from your mobile device or from an actual book, it should give you food for thought when it comes to giving respect to the physical written word.  Plus, it’s just a really, well-written story for all ages.

My rating is below, and you can add your rating as well after you’ve read the book.

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