“Ink and Bone” by Rachel Caine

I suppose around about now I should probably point out that I’m not actually dead. I just really, really suck at (a) reviewing books and (b) even remembering that this blog exists more often than, like, every ten months.

This is going to be quite a quick review, of a book that I’ve seen floating around the blogosphere as something reasonably new that bookworms are getting excited about. Well, why wouldn’t they? It’s about books, and libraries, and booknerds: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine.

Plus, it's gorgeous.

Plus, it’s gorgeous.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the book had been out for less than ten days when I read it in mid July, so I was right in there with the topical new release: GET IN THERE. I’m a functioning book blogger for once. I actually just picked it up because of the cover, and then the blurb hooked me, because the premise looked cool.

So, Ink and Bone explores the concept of a world where the Library of Alexandria was never destroyed. But while books and information are valued, they’re also closely controlled. Everyone has something called a ‘blank’, which is a bit like a Kindle, except I got the impression it had pages rather than just buttons. On this, they can load books from a catalogue, but the vast majority of people don’t get to handle original books, since these are rare.

The book revolves around Jess, whose family are book smugglers. He enters training to become a librarian — it’s pretty hardcore, and it’s not a job just anybody can do. People get hurt during the process. There’s also war going on, primarily with the Welsh.

Things I loved:

  • There is so much worldbuilding going on, but not in an obtrusive way. The blanks. The way the libraries are policed by mechanical lions. How the book smuggling business works. What technology has been developed. Which positions in society are respected. Library technology generally.
  • I generally like alternative history and that kind of thing, but I think it’s amusing that I’ve read a few alt history books recently and in all of them, England seems to be at war with Wales. Is this a hint? Are these authors Welsh and if so, what are they trying to say?
  • The characters are a diverse bunch. Jess and his fellow trainee Librarians come from all over the world, so we get a nice look at their different cultures, and he learns to work with them — even somebody who is Welsh, shock horror.
  • It’s all about friendship. Training to be a librarian is dangerous, so you need to have friends to support you. I liked how the focus was on different friendships, rather than being overwhelmed by romance like so many YA books were. It generally did a good job of portraying these dynamics.
  • BOOKS. I read this while working part-time in a school library. It made me feel like I could be a badass librarian too. Just for that, I’d recommend it to all my fellow booknerds (particularly those who work in libraries or bookshops — you’ll feel a whole lot better about the value of your career).

Things I didn’t love:

  • Literally nothing.

I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, which doesn’t happen often, and I’m giving it five here too. I enjoyed it, I really recommend it, and I’ll be hunting down the rest as soon as they’re released. The disadvantage of being so quick to read this after publication, of course, is the fact that I’ll have a long wait ahead of me…

I found this book really exciting to read. The way Rachel Caine had constructed the world was so unlike anything I’d be able to come up with. You know sometimes you read a great book, and wish you’d written it? I didn’t have that with this, because I knew it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d ever be able to write. So I could enjoy it without any jealousy or despair (i.e. I’ll never be this good, which I sometimes feel when reading books by authors with a style similar to mine), and as a result, I had great fun with it.

I kept turning to my family and talking about the latest aspect of cool worldbuilding. I can’t emphasise enough that this has SUCH cool technology. A semi-magical world focused on libraries means a whole lot of tech, and it’s all about books. How awesome is that?

So yeah, definitely recommended to fellow booknerds, librarians and people who work in bookshops, but also readers who like friendships, interesting characters, and detailed worldbuilding that manages not to be overwhelming or info-dumpy. I believe there’s going to be a sequel (or more), so I’m really excited to read that and will consider buying my own copy instead of borrowing it from the library like I did with this one.

Rating: *****

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