Book Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Posted October 3, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Alternative History
Published by NAL Trade on July 5, 2016
Pages: 357
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Daylighters, Kicking It: These Boots are Made for Stalking, Prince of Shadows, Ink and Bone, Ash and Quill, Killman Creek, Honor Among Thieves, Smoke and Iron, Honor Bound, Honor Lost

Second in The Great Library alternate history science fiction series for Young Adults and revolving around Jess Brightwell and those left of his postulant group who have managed to survive their introductions to a world they thought they had known. And revered.

My Take

It’s a tough question facing the group: to destroy the world as they know it or go along with repressing knowledge and progress. Yeah. Progress. Something as simple yet powerful as electricity that the Library has kept from the world for centuries. The arrogance of the Archivist and Artifex is incredible, let alone those that came before. A betrayal that is so horrendous — and not just to Jess and his friends but to the world.

It’s a pattern. What they did to Wolfe is what they’re doing to Thomas. Only, they’ll never let the world know that Thomas is alive, but they will break him and use him. It’s an attitude rife within the Library, of people who want to “own” you, to force you to comply with their demands, and Feng’s “favor” is symptomatic…and killing Glain. Whichever choice she makes, it’s the death of her dream.

I do enjoy alternate history stories, if only for the twists it puts on our past. There was one in Paper and Fire that noted how Julius Caesar saved the Library. I do love that part, for it’s always seemed such a great tragedy that the Library of Alexandria was lost at all. And it reminds me of one of the points for which I’m enjoying The Great Library series so much: that love and focus on how important books are.

Jess always knew his family was business first, family second, but nowhere is that more true than when he and his friends need help when they finally reach London. It’s a betrayal. It’s not the only betrayal by family, for Wolfe’s mother notes in her journal that the Obscurists were also betrayed by the Library.

And yet, Keria will still support the Library, hiding behind her hopes, keeping Morgan despite her hatred for the Obscurists and the Tower, their breeding program. Despite the luxuries of the Iron Tower, it’s still a prison, and it seems that some are not happy there and poison is available.

It takes Wolfe, Jess, and the rest to make Keria realize the truth.

The Story

The order has gone out. The traitor is to be killed, for Wolfe’s knowledge threatens all that the Library’s hierarchy holds dear.

And Thomas is alive. It is more imperative than ever that they rescue him, and the Library is determined to murder them all.

The Characters

Jess Brightwell is now a private in the High Garda. His family are book smugglers with his immediate family in London: Brendan, a.k.a., Scraps, is his unscrupulous twin brother; Liam was the older brother who had been hanged; and, Callum is his bastard of a father. Cousin Frederick (Ink and Bone, 1) is safe in the north.

The inventive Thomas Schreiber had been Jess’ friend until he was tortured and killed by the Archivist for his heresy in Ink and Bone. The other postulants in his group had included: Dario Santiago who is a Scholar now and works with the renowned Scholar Prakesh. Scholar Khalila Seif is a gold and has a permanent future in the Library. Both of them work out of the Lighthouse. Glain and Morgan are the remaining two. Scholar Christopher Wolfe, already on the Archivist and Artifex’s black list, had been their trainer in Ink and Bone.

The Great Library hoards…

…all books, and therefore all knowledge from its base in Alexandria. All other libraries throughout the world are daughter libraries, Serapeum, although the one in Paris also rules France. Led by the Archivist Magister, the Library is divided into specialties which include the Artifex that deals in technology and maths and is headed by Artifex Magnus, the Archivist’s bullyboy. There are also the Obscurists.

The Obscurists live…
…in the Iron Tower and are the ones who make the blanks, the automata, and the Codex work, but they are diminishing in numbers, imprisoned because of this ability, forced to breed. Obscurist Magnus Keria Morning is the head of the Obscurists and is also Wolfe’s mother. Others include Gregory Valdosta, Keria’s second-in-command, a predator who delights in torment, and who hates Keria; Sybilla is a young girl who fell in love with the wrong person; Dominic and Iskander have been chosen to mate with Morgan and Sybilla; and, Rosa who is pregnant and an absolute bitch.

Morgan Hault, another of Jess’ friends, had been trying to erase all record of her existence in Ink and Bone to keep from being imprisoned in the Iron Tower.

The High Garda are…
…the highest ranked military unit for the Library and is led by the High Commander. Elite Captain Niccolo Santi is Scholar Christopher Wolfe’s lover and terrified that Wolfe will be murdered. I suspect Captain Feng is the one who gave orders to Tariq. Centurion Thabani Botha is one of the guards on the gate and trained in field medicine. Lieutenant Zara has a gold band and is under Santi’s authority.

Squad Leader Glain Walthen is in charge of Jess’ initial training unit, and she’ll be demoted for her success in the exercise. Tariq Oduya, Garrett Wu and Violet “Violent” Bransom are Tariq’s closest friends, Helva, Zelalem,and Shi Zheng are squad mates. Glain and Jess’ battle unit will be Century Two Blue Squad, a.k.a., the Blue Dogs, under Santi. Those squad mates include Botha and Tom “Troll” Robinson.

Neksa Darzi is a silver-banded Scholar with whom Brendan is living. He intends to use her. Seems Brendan is staying in Alexandria because he lost a large shipment of rare books and needs to make a comeback or face their father’s wrath.

The Black Archives are…
…where banned books, plans, and inventions are sent to die, millions of books with an entire level devoted to printing..

The Alexandrian black market
Red Ibrahim is a successful smuggler and a trade cousin to the Brightwells. Anit is his daughter, learning the trade. She had had two brothers.

Sergeant Reynolds of the High Garda is guarding a door into the tunnels. Glaudino repairs the Library’s automata.

The Welsh have taken the City. The Riverrun Boys are a smuggling group. Captain Harte is Garda, but inclined toward the Brightwells. Scholar Naomi Ebele, the former head of the Oxford Serapeum, is now in London

Burners are…

…against the Library keeping all books to themselves. In London, a group is working with Callum with Kate as their leader.

Pharaoh Ptolemy II kicks off the rebellion by the Great Library when he insists to the Archivist Callimachus that the Library serve Egypt.

An ink-licker is a pervert who eats books. Mesmerism is hypnotism, and Elsinore Quest is one of the best and quite shady to boot. A Translation Chamber teleports people.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the orange of fire against a textured background. At the top is the author’s name embossed in brown. Just below it are the dragon heads from Ink and Bone as they preside over the burning center that reveals the title in a gold blackletter font. The burning hole sits atop a hall in The Great Library, more flames creeping up from the bottom. The series information is in the shaped, brown bookplate below the title.

Of all things, the title reminds me of the ultimate betrayal at the end, the conflagration of Paper and Fire.

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