Published: July 7th, 2015
Average Goodreads rating: 3.96
My rating: 3.75
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn… (from Goodreads)
Always remember the words of Descartes: The reading of all good books is like conversion with the finest men of the past centuries.
Sigh. I started off trying to write a full, comprehensive review of this book but I just can’t come up with the words for it. Why? I have conflicted feelings. Even deciding on a rating was difficult. On one hand I enjoyed the general premise of the book. The idea of the Library of Alexandria having survived and become a major player in the world is truly fascinating. The historical Library of Alexandria is immensely interesting to me and I love reading about it, watching documentaries about it, and will pick up pretty much anything that the Library is included in so I was really excited to read this book.
I must admit, how they set up the Library as a more of less a major political superpower is incredibly interesting. People are forbidden from actually owning books but they can, in a nutshell, download a book from the library to read if they have permission to do so. It isn’t done in a digital format but, more or less, a magical format where the text appears on paper documents belonging to individuals. It took a while for me to understand that as it wasn’t made very clear but just hinted at through context clues.
However, in this story, the Library has become corrupted and they don’t want the public at large having the knowledge that they squirrel away. This, understandably, has made many groups and factions upset and has lead to an underground network of book smugglers. Sadly, the smugglers were a let down. They weren’t interested in preserving knowledge and the pursuit of intellectual evolution but instead they were in it merely for the profit, willing to sacrifice anyone in their way. It was disheartening.
My other disappointment was the characters themselves. The major players all started off as individuals quickly evolving as the story progressed. However, at just over the halfway point, the characters stagnated. They had been through a major ordeal and they remained at who they were mentally at that point for the remainder of the story. It made the second half of the story drag terribly and I genuinely stopped caring about all but one of them and he was technically a minor character.
In a nutshell, this book had a compelling concept and delivered on its promises to a certain extent. Could it have been better? Absolutely. Will I still read the next book in the series? Most likely but I hope that the story progressing more fluidly with more character development in the next installment.
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