Title: Ink and Bone
Author: Rachel Caine
The Doctrine of Ownership states that the Great Library must, for the protection and preservation of knowledge in trust for the world, own all such knowledge.
Ink and Bone is set in an alternate universe where The Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, instead it stands as the most powerful wielder of influence in the world. The Library guards knowledge in a miserly way, strictly restricting its distribution by a rather ingenious system named ‘mirroring’. Texts are distributed from an approved list of books to ‘blanks’ throughout the world – think Kindle if Amazon became an evil overlord! The ownership of actual books are outlawed, to allow controlled and monitored flow of information. In fact, it was revealed early on in the book that Gutenberg was disposed of when he invented the printer: the one technology that would undermine the Library’s iron grip on knowledge and progress.
So much should never be held in the hands of so few, for it is a natural, venal habit of men to hold to power. And knowledge is the purest form of power.
If that premise does not convince you to run to the nearest bookstore and grab a copy of Ink & Bone, I don’t know what else I can do! Just imagine, all of the information in the world available, but guarded and banned from the public. The Library, bookworm’s most sacred place, is an malevolent force! That is a wicked cool premise! The conflicts in Ink & Bone does it justice, too. Though at times, I felt that the text was a bit too heavy handed with the whole ‘knowledge is freedom’ spiel – I don’t like it when stuff are spoon fed to me. In any case, I felt that Ink & Bone’s strongest point was definitely this intriguing setting, I already cannot wait to see more of this world.
You’re clever, Jess, but Da’s wrong about one thing: you don’t just have ink in your blood. It’s in your bones. Your skeleton’s black with it.
Our narrator, Jesse, is very much a kindred spirit to all book lovers. His family runs a smuggling business that sells physical books on the black market. Jesse loves books for what they represent: a piece in time and history – so his father deems him too sentimental for the family business. Instead, his father send him off to apply for a position at The Library to get an insider in the operations. Jesse is a character I should have adored, yet I felt his characterisation was too thin and inconsistent for me to give a damn. He wanted to prove himself to his father – but he doesn’t give a damn about the family business? He adores books and knowledge – but he’s also in awe of The Library though as an institution it was shady as f? I did appreciate seeing the world through his eyes, though.
As standard with YA books nowadays, there’s an obligatory competition where our protagonist is sorely outmatched – yet somehow manages to scrape by to the final round by their smarts. I found this part of the book quite weak, surely there’s a better way to weed out the poorer candidates than a bootcamp? Haven’t The Library ever heard of a job interview? Another thing that was thoroughly unnecessary is the romance, I know it’s pretty much a necessity in YA fantasy at this point, but I did not see how it added to the storyline. Nor did any of the characters have any semblance of chemistry with one another. Something that should have been tragic occurred at the end of the book, but I felt like a stone cold bitch as I just shrugged and moved on. I blame this on the lack of character development, rather than a lack of heart on my part. However, I do give kudos to the author for having such a diverse cast.
A life is worth more than a book! Vita hominis plus libro valet!
Tota est scientia. Knowledge is all.
Despite the weak characters, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book because I was invested in the core conflict: the importance of freedom. The question of whether knowledge is that sacrosanct, or if human lives should be valued over it. I would love to see more of The Burners VS The Library in the following book. I would not hesitate to recommend Ink & Bone to anyone who loves books – you can tell the author had a deep appreciation for the written words and real books through this read. Even though I am a firm e-reader, this book made me want to run to the nearest library and sniff the scent of ink and yellowing pages.
So have you read this book, what did you think of it? I’m in the mood for more library based books, so please come forth with your recommendations!