I’ve known about this book for a while and I finally got around to getting Ink and Bone from my own local library. I’m glad it was on the top of the pile.
So in this world, the ancient library of Alexandria was never lost or destroyed. Instead it becomes the entity which rules the world as it controls all knowledge. To this end, personal ownership of books is forbidden. People are allowed access to certain titles via notebooks that function like modern tablets called a ‘codex’; ‘codices’ would be the plural but I don’t remember seeing it. Jess our hero belongs to family that makes their living smuggling real books in London. His father decides their family needs a spy at the library, so Jess goes to take the exam to join the Library. He passes, so he goes to Alexandria for training. He makes a lot of friends, and the group ends up with a Snape-like instructor in the form of Scholar Wolfe. The friends are a pretty diverse mix including brilliant Khalia, friendly Thomas, arrogant Dario, serious Glain, and eventually mysterious Morgan.
During their training, Jess and friends have a lot of adventures and find clues about evil lurking in the Library. The reader gets more clues in the form of notes and communications past and present from different characters, some of whom we’ve met and some we haven’t seen in person (yet). Morgan joins the group halfway through the training, because she was delayed because she’s from Oxford and the war that’s been going on in England prevented her from getting to training on time. Introducing a new character after the main group can be a way to shake up the dynamic but that doesn’t really happen. Instead Morgan becomes the key to one of the biggest Library mysteries: the Obscurists. She also becomes Jess’ love interest, which is a little disappointing because we don’t get time to get to know Morgan, so her potential relationship with Jess has little basis.
The library is the source of the dystopic feel of the story. The characters are the source of possible hope. Even Wolfe. One of the best bits in the whole thing is when Jess figures out who Wolfe’s lover is. There was a letter from Wolfe to a more powerful, probably evil Library person suggesting he had one, but the reveal is really well done. It’s a character we’ve already met, and Jess’s reaction is ‘I did not see that coming’. Clearly there’s more to the scary instructor, and there is.
By the end, the group who survives the training gets their assignments, but they are a person down from where they should be. One of the characters disappears and Jess is told that person died, but other evidence suggests, to the reader at least, there is more going on.
I am just glad I waited to read this because the sequel came out a month ago and I don’t have to wait. The only problem is that if book 2 is as good as book 1, I have to wait almost a year for book 3. 2017 promises to be a good year.