“There are three parts to learning: information, knowledge and wisdom, A mere accumulation of information is not knowledge, and a treasure of knowledge is not in itself, wisdom.”
Blurb (Goodreads)- 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…
Thoughts- To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit at lost for how much this book blew me away. It’s full of action, plot twists (some I didn’t even see coming), great friendships and diversity, intrigue and power struggles between “classes” of a sort, and most of all, books. So many books, anyone who is a book lover like many of us (and Jess!) can totally appreciate this book.
The beginning of this was on the slower side and grabbed my interest but something didn’t quite hook me, but keep reading! Our protagonist, Jess, soon finds himself in a boarding school-esque situation training to become a fully fledged librarian. Now, I’m a huge fan of boarding school type training things, I find them so much fun to read and see the actual training part of the protagonist’s journey.
But then this book is so much more than that too, it deals with not only the training, but the political side of world run by libraries (which is super cool), war and the damage it causes, not only physically but mentally, and familiar relationships. There’s loss, agony, and pain throughout the whole novel and Caine deals with it so well. She writes about it in such a brutally honest way that’s the characters and readers are both faced with dealing with the actual pain of loss.
“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never be just a business to you.”
Speaking of Caine, I adore her writing style in this! It’s so elegant and full of rich language that creates an extremely vivid image of the world. This world is beautiful, and I love how Caine explores throughout multiple cities of London, Oxford, and Alexandria and describes them distinctly. The different positions in the world, spanning from ink-lickers and burners, up scholars and obscurists are all quite unique and fascinating. I really want to explore more into the obscurists in the following books!
This book is also full of diversity with characters hailing from the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Arab, and Wales. I love the cast of postulants, they all have their strengths and flaws which make it fun to watch them interact with each other, and how they grow to trust one another. Jess is a great protagonist because he quite honestly, isn’t the best person ever. He gets very involved in his own life sometimes that he forgets how his actions affect others and his character grows with the realization of this trait, especially near the end. The side characters like Scholar Wolfe and general Santi and all of the other postulants are fantastic characters, especially Wolfe (who has such good development).
Overall, what I can say to wrap this up is read this book. Seriously, like read it. I loved this so much and I think it’s helped kick start my reading again. You could even read it just for the world that has this rich history of being built around illegal books, with libraries being the ultimate government. Obviously, I highly recommend this, especially for you fellow book lovers!