[Paper and Fire: The Great Library II] Rachel Caine

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In the sequel to the world created in Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine has created more suspense and intrigue. Jess knows all too well what the Library will do to those who dare step out. Every move he makes is closely monitored, and it’s likely only a matter of time before the Library finds some way to make him disappear. Jess and his friends have to navigate this world as they discover more secrets that the Library has been keeping–secrets that are more deadly than any they’ve discovered before. Change will come from within.

I didn’t think that I could get more immersed in the world of the Library. Now that Jess has an official place in the Library in Paper and Fire, the benefits and shortcomings of it become more glaringly obvious. Yet, even as Jess becomes aware of how bad the Library can be, he still likes the idea of the Library. The ideal is wonderful, but over the years it became corrupted. Most people don’t see it, so I liked how Paper and Fire gave us more information about how this happened. It really focused on how things can be corrupted; something may be good, but those that are in control will warp it to their own advantage–even if it harms others. Paper and Fire really focused on the old aphorism “Knowledge is Power.” Of course, power is corruptible and Jess continues to learn just what that means.

As with Ink and BonePaper and Fire had the same addictive, couldn’t-put-down quality to the writing. The plot was steady and engaging. As a second book in a series, it was great. If anything, I was more interested in the events of the second novel than the first because we were pulled even deeper into the world of the Library. Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the events in the first novel. The benefit of this is that the world could be advanced instead of explained.

I liked that most of the novel took place in Alexandria. As much as I liked the events of the first book, Ink and Bone almost had too many locations. As a result, they were detailed but I didn’t feel that I had a true grasp on the culture. Because Paper and Fire was the opposite, I felt more connected with the world and the characters because I was able to better understand the culture of the Library and of Alexandria. It lent a sort of suspense to the events of the novel; because I understood the culture of the Library better, I was more aware of what would happen if Jess got caught. It was incredibly exciting to read.

What wasn’t exciting was the romances. They pale in comparison to the relationships between friends and family. I think that those are far more interesting and well-written. They allowed for character redeeming moments where I was emotional. The romances just feel like they were put into the story to satisfy a criteria of young adult novels. They’re very flat. Initially I had thought that it was a result of it being a first novel, but the feelings I have about the romances carried through to the second. There doesn’t seem to be chemistry. They only relationship I’m slightly invested in is the one between Wolfe and Santi, although I suspect it’s because I’m not in the point of view of it.

I still think that some of the suspense is lost by Rachel Caine’s use of notes and letters at the beginning of each chapter. It heavily foreshadows the events of the chapter and book. Although the book was exciting, I did feel that I was unable to have many surprised reactions because of this. However, Paper and Fire is overwhelmingly better than Ink and Bone. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like Ink and Bone, I did, but this one takes everything that is good about it and makes it better. I wasn’t 100% into this series after reading Ink and Bone, but after Paper and Fire, I’m hooked. I highly recommend this for readers who like alternative history or just historical fiction in general. I’m eagerly awaiting the third book.

5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Paper and Fire will be available on July 5th, 2016, so you have time to catch up on the first if you haven’t done so!

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