Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Alternate History, Fantasy
Source: Allen & Unwin
Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.Review by Nara
In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.
Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar... but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.
Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life - and soon both heretics and boooks will burn...
MY GOD THE IDEA OF THIS BOOK. IT'S SUCH A FREAKING GOOD IDEA.
First of all, what bookish person doesn't want to read a book about books? A book about a library? A book about librarians/scholars who have magic and all the power in the world and are super controlling but also kind of badass and kjasdhflkawef!
And it's an alternate history book! A world where the Great Library of Alexandria wasn't destroyed, and all the original books in existence are stored there. People are only allowed flimsy copies on an electronic device. Of course, though, there are people who capitalise on this and there's a black market where people smuggle originals to collectors. Main character Jess is from a family of smugglers and infiltrates the Library in order to gain access to more goods.
HONESTLY THIS BOOK. THE WHOLE PREMISE IS ALREADY GOOD ENOUGH AND THEN YOU HAVE TO GO AND MAKE IT EVEN MORE AWESOME WITH THE CHARACTERS, THE PLOT, THE EVERYTHING.
There's basically nothing bad about this book. First, Jess. Kind of a weird name for a guy, but I'll forgive that because he's awesome. He has this love for books and knowledge, and already that's a massive point in his favour. On top of that, he's incredibly loyal to his friends, tries to do right by his family (even if they're criminals) and has this competitive strive to come first (which makes for an entertaining protagonist).
There's an element of magic in this book, where certain people are able to manipulate reality with something they call "alchemy". I'm not sure I completely understood the magic system, to be honest, but I'm sure this will be further explored in sequels, so I'm not too worried about that.
Honestly, I don't even want to say too much more about the book, because going into it relatively blind will probably be advantageous. Although I have to admit it's a little bit slow to start, the story quickly picks up and by the last half, you're struggling to put the book down.
Definitely one of my top reads of this year.
World Building: 4.5/5