An alternate reality where the Library of Alexandria survives?!?! It’s every book lover’s dream- sign me up!!!!!
Actually, that’s exactly what I did. I originally put in a request through Netgalley to view “Ash and Quill”. I quickly learned that “Ash and Quill” was book number 3 in “The Great Library” series and I would need to be (better) acquainted with the characters AND story line. Luck must have been on my side because I also had the opportunity to review “Ink and Bone” (book number 1 in “The Great Library” series”. I was destined to read this series- so I took it upon myself to purchase book 2 to bring them all together.
What exactly does this world look like with preserved knowledge? Pretty similar to today, just a larger emphasis on knowledge running the world. Even in this bookworm’s world, someone is always hungry for power. People are still put into groups, and it seems each group has it’s own caste system. And yet again as we spiral down to the underprivileged, groups and caste systems dissipate and it’s an absolute free-for-all for survival.
The Library, which is essentially the government, primarily focus on:
“Knowledge is Power”
However, knowledge is not meant for all. It’s true that the highest positions within the Library are privy to every and all information. It is up to the positions of power to filter out (or in) what they deem necessary. If it’s an original work that could bring about rebellion, the inventor is labeled a heretic, his/her original text is sent to the black archives, and the library is saved. If it’s an original work that benefits the present and future, the Obscurists (think of them ALMOST as magicians) will copy the original work into blanks. Blanks could be a hit or miss. Information may be omitted or added to depending on the idea the Library is trying to convey.
“Knowledge is Power”
It is in in that simple motto where groups start to break down.
- Smugglers: wish to preserve original books: it is their trade: money to be made.
- Burners: political statement: will burn any book to break the Library’s hold on originals
- Obscurists: the group in the library that “mirror’s” original books
- Scholars: protect any and all books, no matter the costs
Readers are introduced to Jess Brightwell- who at the time is 10 years old. The Brightwell family runs a book smuggling operation- not just any books; originals. Just because you are a young member of the family, does not mean you are exempt from smuggling duty. Jess knows for certain he does not want a future career within the family business. One prominent memory for Jess was a run were a customer dubbed an “ink licker” ate an original book, for:
“. . .there’s no act of possession more complete than consuming the unique. . .”
Jess may have been born into a book smuggling business, but ,
“. . .[he] was born with ink in his blood. . .”
making him consciously aware that he would do anything to protect a book.
Tired of paying for a son who refuses to take over the family business, Callum (ever the opportunist) decides to use his son for bigger and better things; placement in the Library, and a chance to make return investment on years of tutelage.
Jess passes the placement test, sending him to Alexandria with a train full of hopeful postulants. Whilst on the train ride, we learn of the other characters who will frequent the books:
- Thomas: from Germany. Has a large build, and hopes to get placed in engineering.
- Khalila: from the Middle East, very pretty, the first person to EVER score 100% on the exams.
- Glain: Welsh, solid dislike for Jess since he’s English and they’re in a war; very plain, brash.
- Dario: spanish, arrogant- used to getting what he wants.
- Morgan: late arrival; on the run from the library, safest place is right under their nose for the time being.
- Scholar Wolfe: intimidating; black robes, shoulder length hair, not the average teacher. Forced into teaching as a punishment (although the reader will not know that until much later).
- Santi: member of the High Garda, assigned to Scholar Wolfe
So for the most part this is our rag tag team for the series. Naturally there are other minor characters introduced throughout, but these here are your main focus.
Scholar Wolfe is expected to whittle down his applicants to 6; through lessons, practical life lessons, hand on tasks, as well as common sense training. The Library deems them fit to go on a mission to Oxford for the retrieval of Originals at the sister library. The problem? They are walking right in the middle of the English/Welsh war.
Even in this alternate reality, history repeats itself. Usually, repeated ideas are the most dangerous, and most likely to draw (unwanted) attention from the Library; which is exactly what Thomas has done. Thomas has invented a machine that renders Obscurists obsolete, as well as challenging the powerful hold the library has on it’s information flow. What innocent Thomas is unaware of, is his invention has actually been “invented” before. . .centuries, decades, and years prior. Each invention discovered, each inventor silenced and/or tortured, and all evidence of either of the two ever existing wiped clean.
Luckily, our crew of miscreants has someone seasoned in the Library’s conduct; Scholar Wolfe. It is through Wolfe’s intuition that leads Jess to realize Thomas has been taken. It is through a hypnotic trance that Wolfe is able to tell the group where Thomas may be kept, and it is Wolfe’s ability to help everyone steer clear from the Library as much as possible.
Throughout the 3 books it’s Battle—–>Rescue—–>Rest—–>Repeat. Not only do we have human obstacles our group must face, but also automated (specifically engineered for the Library) and chemical.
Unbeknownst to me, I originally thought this was only a 3 book series. Upon looking up information on Goodreads, I learned that it is actually a 5 book series (YAY!!!!). In my personal opinion, this series (all around) is an amazing read. I typically love alternate realities, but lately it seems that they have been overdone. By breathing life back into the Library of Alexandria, it gives a historical spin on what “could have” been our future. The story line flows- for the most part, I did not hit a boring spot that I had to put down and take a break. Caine has developed this world beautifully- everything is well thought out, described, and intoxicating. The depth of the characters makes you easily fall in love with them- and I HIGHLY suggest at starting with book 1, do not skip books.
It is also my opinion that this series be developed either into a video game (yes you read that right!) or a TV series. Yes, I loved it that much, and I really think it would do well! So, here at Quitterstrip, I cannot wait to continue with this series.
All 3 books get a solid:
I was chosen by Netgalley to receive an advanced reader copy of “Ash and Quill” by Rachel Caine. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all. “Ash and Quill” has a scheduled US release date of July 11th 2017.