Paper & Fire Review

Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sequel to Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

Summary: “Let the world burn.

With an iron fist, the Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion and, in the name of the greater good, forbidding the personal ownership of books.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower, doomed to a life apart from everything she knows.

After embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…” (Summary found on Goodreads).

“But hope was a malicious, jagged thing, all spikes and razors that churned and cut deep in his guts. Hope was a great deal like fear.”

I will confess, I did prefer Ink & Bone. The plot felt more grounded there, while Paper & Fire seemed like a filler book. It had some low points, but they may have been less “low” if I had picked this book up when I purchased it, instead of more than six months later. I have a really bad habit of doing that…

My biggest issue with Ink & Bone was the romance between Jess and Morgan. I love Jess, but Morgan felt really flat to me and I never saw them as a couple. I still don’t think their relationship is all that interesting, but I have a greater appreciation for Morgan now, whose arc is much stronger. The rest of the characters felt a tad bit weaker than before, except for maybe Khalila, who I have such a soft spot for. She is everything. I still really dislike Glain, though, who has the personality of a pancake.

Jess will forever be a favorite of mine. He’s a very good main character, despite, at times, having no brains and saying the stupidest things. His love of books is so precious, though, and his whole backstory with stealing them is A+ material. The whole family dynamic there is really interesting because you can tell his dad used him, and Jess knows it too. It has such an effect on him and is really, really well done. I’m looking forward to what will be done with this aspect in Ash & Quill (book three), especially considering where we left off in this novel.

Rachel Caine is a wonderful writer. Her books feel mature, not in content, but in the power of her prose. Her writing could come across as dry for someone who prefers contemporary, which is usually written in a choppier, more concise manner. Caine has beautiful descriptions, and action scenes that are extraordinarily good.

As well, the weaving of technology into the plot is hardly ever seen, and gives this series more of a steampunk feel. I love the inclusion of automatons and those sphinx-like ones that started attacking them. It gives these books a sense of timelessness, as though they belong to no time, and transcend the reality we know. This is doubly true, for it’s set in an alternate universe where the Great Library of Alexandria never burned down. Have I mentioned how much I love history yet in this review?? (It appears my exclamation of this belongs in every review now). And alternate universes are so amazing because it’s like rewriting history!!

Verdict? This book was great, possibly a little slow and filler-y, but still very character strong. I anticipate the next book being very good, and hopefully better. If you haven’t read these books, I highly, highly recommend them. This series is so underrated and yet has some of the most wonderful writing I have ever seen in YA and some of the most diverse characters, too. If you read one book in 2017, let it be Ink & Bone, and if you read two, follow it up with Paper & Fire. 

“Books had become a symbol of trust and libraries places of peace and stability. In all the chaos of the world that counted people as different levels of worthy, the Library served all equally. All genders, races, levels of ability. It was the one place they could all be safe”

-Book Hugger

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