Author: Rachel Caine
Publication Date: July 5th, 2016
Paper and Fire opens several months after the conclusion of Ink and Boneended with Jess in his new career at the Library. He finds information that shows an old friend may still be alive. Jess, his friends, and former mentor, make a plan to rescue their locked away companion. The whole time the corrupt and manipulative Library of Alexandria secretly fights for its control over knowledge; attempting to stop Jess before he reveals their secrets to the world.
Like with the first book, this world has such a great premise. The Library holds all information and this has dramatically affected the world to being totally different from our own. While this setting is technically slightly in the future, compared to our non-fiction time, their technology is limited to steam being the best of the best. Electricity has been introduced but practical applications have not been invented.
This sets up for some really interesting ideas. What did the Library do when Hitler was starting wars? When the settlers came to America, where they running from religious freedom, or did the run from the Library’s stranglehold on knowledge? Honestly the book does make some hints at how history has been affected, including some allusions about the French Revolution and Julius Caesar, but most of this book we are confined to the city of Alexandria. You do seem a little bit of Rome, but you don’t see enough of it to really show anything new. Granted, seeing more of the alternate world would likely have meant a much more massive book, it would be nice to explore other changes to history.
The story itself, rescuing Jess’s friend, felt half backed for almost the entire book. There isn’t even really a plan among Jess & Co. for most of it. They actually end up in a position to rescue him entirely, 100% unplanned. They figure out where the friend is then get incredibly lucky and get to go to that place. The remainder of the plan is “run around like maniacs until we get lucky.”
Jess is still a great character. He is stuck between his past of smuggling books for his father, and being a good man and doing the right thing. He struggles with it and does still smuggle books every once in awhile but it is interesting to see that he isn’t a one dimensional character. He would rather be a scholar read and studying books, than running illegal trade items.
His love interest, Morgan, is a well made character as well, but their love feels like not-so-good old young adult novel trope number one: there has to be a love interest no matter if they have personal chemistry or not. They interact but the so called spark that supposedly happened between them never started. Again, both are great and interesting characters with their own problems to go through but they felt thrown together from the first book and in this one it is no different. Sometimes it seems like their romance is little more than a device to give Jess’s character motive for many of the things that he does.
Besides Santi and his annoying urges to protect Scholar Wolfe like he is his child, the story and characters are fun and exciting. You care about each one and want all of them to make it through the book alive. The way this books ends looks to be very promising for the next book as maybe we will be able to get to see the rest of this changed world of theirs.
I know both me and Dani love history and that is one of the first things that drew me to this book. I was excited to see how different the world is. To a point the author has done that. Everyone has a codex that is like their own personal tablet that they do everything with. They have to destroy them at one point to get away from the Library and they all hesitate because this has been a big deal for them. This is the only way to get information and the have to destroy it. I just want to see more of the world and how they have been effected. I could see that being so much fun. Overall, his book was fine. It had a few confusing parts that didn’t match up but I did enjoy it.
My biggest problem with this book is that the story felt too small for a setting with such incredible and exciting potential. You have a conspiracy and corruption that has held for thousands of years, 2000 years worth of history to rewrite, alchemy and magic at your disposal and the story we get is….a half-cocked rescue mission? The parts of the book that interested me the most here were the references to real events and hints about how they unfolded in this world, like the French Revolution playing out much the same but anti-Library rather than anti-monarchy.
That said, I do have a lot of hope for the third book because with events left the way they were at the end of this book it seems that we will finally get to see at least some of what this series has promised but not yet delivered on.