The Great Library Series – Rachel Caine – Review
The Great Library of Alexandria was not destroyed, instead it flourished and became the prime location for all knowledge. All books and writings are housed in the Great Library. All knowledge comes from the Great Library.
Jess Brightwell is the son of a smuggler. In this society owning an original copy of a book is illegal. You own Blanks that are preloaded with books. Jess’s family makes their living off smuggling these original books for the wealthy.
In order to get closer to the library and become an assist to his family Jess is trained to enter into the Library’s services. He quickly learns how much control the library has. When his friend makes a mistake and invents something that could undermine everything the Library stands for, Jess and his friends have choices to make. Do they stay loyal to a broken system or do they join forces with those trying to tear down all that they have known?
Note: This review is for the first 3 books in this series. The fourth book will be published in July. Because of that fact there may be minor spoilers for the second and third book in the series.
What I loved:
The characters are what won this book for me. Thomas, Wolf and Sanit in particular.
Wolfe and Santi were my favorites. They are the most complex characters. I felt like there is so much more to them both. There is a history to Wolfe and his love/hate relationship with the Library. His relationship with his mother is complicated. His relationship with Sanit grounds him. I felt the biggest connection to Wolfe.
Wolfe has a duty to perform. He loves books. He adores knowledge but he is stuck. He is trapped in a system that will kill him if he tries to do anything to hurt it. He wants to fix things but his love for Santi makes him unable to do what needs to be done.
I liked this turmoil. I enjoyed reading how he oscillated between his feelings of duty and his heart. I also really liked how this translated to his relationship with the core group. He feels this fatherly attachment to them that grew throughout the books. I enjoyed him showing his more caring side. I hope in the next book we see more of that and see how he starts to fight for himself instead of being afraid.
Thomas was another great character. Thomas is the epitome of nice guy. He has a big smile that everyone loves. He is always looking on the positive side of situation. He love of books and knowledge is huge and can be felt by every character.
Thomas was the ray of positivity that was needed throughout the story. Even with everything he goes through, he still holds onto hope. I loved hearing him talk. His enthusiasm was infectious. I want to just hug him and keep him safe.
I do hope that in the next book his bravery continues to grow. I want to see him become even more independent and make some difficult choices.
I enjoyed the pace of the plot for much of the first and third books. That pacing disappears in the second book, which I will get into more in below. The pace is quick and things just keep happening. They move and never have time to really think or reflect on what has happened to them.
This pace I think helps keep a lot of the characters separated. There are about seven main characters in this series and sometimes that can become hard to keep track of. But since they are in constant motion, all doing something at all times it was pretty easy to keep them in their own places. None of them get bogged down or felt like they are pointless.
I also enjoyed the diversity in this story. Those training for the library are all from different countries. Our core group is made up of a number of nationalities, cultures and religions. It is always nice to have a broad group of people who work together without focusing on their differences.
What I was just okay with:
Jess is our narrator and our main protagonist. Unfortunately I felt like we don’t get much about him until the third book. I felt like he was very surface level for much of the first two books. I knew that he was confused about his place in the world and that he was falling for Morgan. That was about it.
It wasn’t until the third book that was saw how cunning and clever he could be. In that book we saw how well he understands the fight they are in. I wasn’t surprised by the choices he made. He made choices that would help them in the war and not keep his friends. I am eager to see how this progresses throughout the rest of the series. I think there is potential for Jess and I hope that is realized.
I wish that the technology of Mirroring and Blanks was explained better. I can’t quite explain how it works. It was vaguely explained and kind of left as a just go with it idea. I like the idea but I wish I understood how it worked better. It might have helped me feel more connected to the rest of the plot.
What I wished was different:
The first book did a good job at setting up the world and introducing us to the characters. I got a good feel for where the story was going from that book. I also had a good idea of who our characters were and where they were going. I expected that to be elaborated on in the second book.
Instead the second book felt like it was going in circles. The whole point was to rescue Thomas which they did early in the story. After that it felt like they had no idea where to go or what to do. We went from one location, did nothing and moved to another location and did nothing. They kept running around until they got to the end and ended up in Philadelphia. I felt like the whole point of the book was to get them there.
I honestly think we could have combined the second and third book into one. I think it would have made the pace better, and not felt like the second book got stuck. The third book set up the war coming and the sides everyone is on. You could literally have cut out 3/4 of the second book, added in 1/2 of the third and had a great book.
I am curious how the next book goes. I hope it really pushes us to a conclusion. I think there are supposed to be five ultimately in this series. I hope the fourth book doesn’t come out as a repeat of the second book.
Overall I gave this series between 3 and 4 stars out on Goodreads. I love the premise. I love the way knowledge is good and evil. I like the idea of the Great Library still existing. I love a number of the characters. I just wish the plot was a bit tighter.
“A life is worth more than a book” (pg. 35, Ink and Bone) ( I wish this had been more central to the earlier plots. I hope it becomes so in the later books)
“The Library might have brought the wisdom of ages into the lives of the common folk; it might have kept humankind from falling into the darkness of ignorance and despair and superstition. But that didn’t mean the hands of those in charge were clean.” (pg. 97, Ink and Bone)
“Because revolution rarely comes from those in charge.” (pg. 74, Paper and Fire)
“This is the graveyard where they buried our future.” (pg. 308, Paper and Fire).
“It was a hard truth that right now, they didn’t need to be purely good. They needed to be capable for anything.” (pg. 278, Ash and Quill)