- Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Rating: * * * * *
Series: #2 The Great Library trilogy
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Publication Date: July 2016
In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…
With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.
Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.
Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.
But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…
‘Paper and Fire’ was my most anticipated book of 2016 and I am delighted to say that it
lived up to exceeded all my expectations. Here’s what I loved so much about it and why I would recommend it:
‘Paper and Fire’ has an awesome cast of characters. A highlight for me has to be Glain. She’s determined, strong, and fiercely loyal. She’s also very astute and rather blunt:
‘If that bit of false-modesty theatre was meant to distract me from the fact you’re wearing some kind of smuggling equipment under that shirt, it failed.’
I really like the fact that it is Glain who is the Squad Leader and that she is assertive and very much in control in this role, and also that she’s addressed as ‘Sir’ and Jess describes her as ‘handsome’ rather than ‘pretty’. She defies stereotypes of young women and her strength really captures my admiration. I’m so glad that she has a large role in this book and I love that her and Jess’ friendship is built on mutual respect.
Although she’s quite a minor character and only appears in a few scenes, something about Anit’s quiet strength and practical nature really makes her, too, stand out for me. I’m very much hoping that she will appear in the next book.
Additionally, I love that another layer is added to Dario’s character. In ‘Paper and Fire’, we see his vulnerability, his guilt, and his disappointment in himself when he tries to do the things Jess can but fails because he isn’t as experienced. His character is developed as we see his flaws along with his successes. I also really like seeing more of him and Khalila together – they were my favourite couple in the first book in this series, ‘Ink and Bone’. We also get to see more of Jess and Morgan and of Wolfe and Santi. Santi’s loyalty to Wolfe during Wolfe’s struggles in this book is very touching.
I have to say that this series is the best fantasy series I have read in terms of the diversity of the cast of characters. There are characters with different sexual orientations, religious faiths and from different cultures and countries. I know this is something very important and that many readers look for books which are representative.
I loved the world that Rachel Caine created in ‘Ink and Bone’ and couldn’t wait to return to it. ‘Paper and Fire’ makes me love it even more, as we get to see so much more of it. We learn more about Translation, the black market for books and the Black Archives, and more about those who run the library and the Library’s past. We also learn more about Wolfe’s past through Mesmer-induced trances.
A particular highlight for me is learning more about the automata and how they can be switched on and off – it’s fascinating, and the different automata are vividly described. It’s also really interesting to learn more about the various career paths and options available in this world through seeing what Jess’ fellow library initiates are up to. Through Morgan, we get to glimpse the duties of being an Obscurist. These duties, we discover, are particularly sinister for females – the Library controls and constrains them in an awful way.
When reading this novel, you are swept away into this fascinating, tense, imaginative and vivid world of the Library. More aspects of the world are filled in and developed in this sequel, and this world is wonderfully unique and original. It’s a world I love to live in and I can’t wait to return to it in the final novel. It’s just like Morganville, the setting for Rachel Caine’s other YA series – you never want to leave!
PLOT AND PACE
One of the main things that makes ‘Paper and Fire’ so enjoyable and un-put-down-able is the great amount of tension in the novel. The protagonist Jess is always getting himself/being put into scrapes that he must find his way out of, whether it’s being chased by menacing and dangerous automata, illegally smuggling books in his harness, having to avoid blazes of Greek Fire, or desperately searching for the off-switch or place of vulnerability of a Spartan warrior statue. I especially love this line of his narration:
‘Running for his life was a feeling that settled on him like old, familiar clothes.’
There’s also constant tension because of the fact that those running the Library, like the automata, are always watching and lurking ready to strike. This is especially brought out when Jess receives a letter from the Artifex Magnus that merely reads ‘Our eyes are on you.’ Additionally, the often ominous and threatening ephemera between chapters create a tense and hostile atmosphere right from the very beginning.
One of my very favourite scenes in the novel is where Jess and Glain’s squad are forced to undergo a training test, which turns out not to be a test at all but a very real and very dangerous situation. The half-strength weapons are actually at full strength. This scene is action-packed and hugely tense. Jess can’t slow down or relax for a second – there is always another danger present, whether it’s a biting cobra or an enemy posed as a friend.
The ending of the novel is just fantastic. Everything builds to a crescendo and it’s totally unpredictable with a few twists. One particularly horrifying, destructive and heart-breaking thing happens at the end and this bit made me feel very emotional, especially because I knew how much it meant to Jess – I can’t give specific details because there’d be massive spoilers. The final cliffhanger has left me desperate for the final book in this amazing trilogy. I don’t know how I will wait a year for it!
‘Paper and Fire’ is a brilliant novel, full of wonderful characters and scenes, and The Great Library series is rapidly climbing up to the top of my all-time favourites list. I highly, highly recommend reading this series if you aren’t already!