Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine

Paper and Fire, the second book in Rachel Caine's Great Library series, picks ups immediately after the events of last year's Ink and Bone. The series is set in a world where access to knowledge is strictly controlled by the Great Library of Alexandria, and the personal ownership of books is forbidden. Caine's protagonist is Jess Brightwell, the son of a book smuggler. After surviving both the Library's brutal job-application process and his father's disappointed hopes of making him into a double agent, Jess has become a soldier in the Library's army. There is absolutely nothing appealing about his new position, but it seems to be the only way to find his best friend and the girl he loves, both of whom have been sacrificed to the Library's ruthless determination to conserve its power.

This series has so much going for it, but it's easier to admire than love. I commend the author's diverse characters and layered plot, but her story needs to land more emotional punches. I'm not saying Caine should abandon elaborate world-building in favor of Twilight-style soppiness or Maze Runner-esque violence, but she could definitely stand to streamline things. (For one thing, her characters hardly spend any time together, which makes it hard to get invested in their relationships.) Right now this series is like the Hillary Clinton of the YA world: thoughtful, ambitious, hardworking, but a little lacking in charm.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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