Published by: Penguin Group (New American Library)
Format: Paperback ARC
Genre: YA, Alternate History
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Sara Beth
What to Expect: I will tell you what not to expect, despite what you have likely heard: this is not Harry Potter, and this is not the Hunger Games.
Plot: In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…
Review: I love books. I do. Books of all kinds. I might even be considered to have a problem. From now on, when trying to gauge the extent of this problem, I am going to use a new scale.
This scale will probably land me somewhere between ‘Jess Brightwell Level of Book Love,’ which is pretty unhealthy but still endearing, and the ‘Great Library Level of Book Love,’ which is psychotic and possessive and ruthless.
Actually, the Great Library doesn’t love books at all. It’s really just maniacally attached to the power that comes along with hoarding them. In the world Caine has created, the library is the Big Bad, and it’s up in the air who, in our broad menagerie of intricately wrought characters, is interested in bringing it down, who wants to milk it for everything its worth, and who wants to just maintain the status quo.
Students of the library, like Jess Brightwell and his classmates, are learning things they never thought they would, and some of those things are magical, and awe inspiring, and life changing. But some of them are…troubling. The further Jess and friends advance towards achieving their goals of gaining positions with the Library, the clearer it becomes that the Library is the most dangerous entity they have ever encountered.
They thought they knew what they wanted, but how far will they go to get it?
Caine forces the reader to consider what we value. Is it your family, your friends, both? Is it knowledge? And what exactly would you do, how far would you go, to protect what you hold dear?
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: This was absolutely not a problem for me, but this book definitely deals with darker themes, including Jess’s abusive childhood experiences, societal oppression, and marginalization. It’s definitely bleak in places, and violent, so for those readers who are looking for a lighter fantasy YA, this isn’t the one for you.
What you will love: This book’s strength, in my opinion, is the intense characterization that drives the insanely well laid out plot. It’s a fast read, mostly because you won’t want to put it down, but the world building is intense and the details of the tale are intricate. There is a couple in this book compromised of two gay men, and it is so completely incidental to the rest of the story, that I found myself slow clapping the author’s strategy here. Embedding these two characters in key positions without focusing on their sexuality, and keeping them alive thank you very much, was much appreciated by a reader within the LGBTQA community. I also enjoyed following where Jess Brightwell led me. He’s a cheat, a thief, and a spy. And I love him for these things, not in spite of them, because his background informs the rest of his personality – his loyalty, his drive, and his commitment to doing right by his family and those he counts as friends.