Hardcover, 351 pages
Published July 7th, 2015 by NAL
This cover *fans self*…you can’t really see it on this picture but the letters are sort of engraved? So you can’t stop rubbing it with your fingers? The same effect these *points at picture below* kinds of books have?
(I’m open to receiving playbooks for review at any time btw…for my little niece *cough, cough**stares longingly at this picture with index finger in Michelangelo/ET style*. I’m also open to receiving used ones, as long as the shit/vomit stain-to-page-ratio is acceptable).
“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…“
Thankfully, the cover wasn’t the only thing that was good about this book. Fuck drum ruffles and building up tension: I LOVED it. It wasn’t at all what I expected it to be, but I fucking loved it anyway.
What I expected:
Secret libraries with musty books and ancient archivists with long beards and a progressive form of arthritis roaming around in there.
What I got:
A not so secret library with musty books and one Archivist with quite possibly a long beard, arthritis, gout, and/or rheumatism, roaming around in the highest faculties of that library.
What else was in there:
Steampunk! I never, for the life of me expected this book to fall into the steampunk category; steam carriages, blueprints for clockwork devices, a Victorian feeling to the surroundings (especially in the European locations)…it’s all in there! A common steampunk setting, the Wild West, is replaced here by North Africa/Egypt. And last, but definitely not least, automatons. These come in the forms of, among other things, lions, sphinxes and roman warriors, and boy, did they creep the shit out of me!
When I started to read, I was pleasantly surprised by finding the protagonist to be a 16-year-old boy, instead of a girl, for once. Jess is the son of one of the most important men in the book smuggling business. See, books, real books, are rare in this dystopian setting.
It’s 2025 and the Alexandrian Library was never destroyed. On the contrary, it thrived and became the most powerful institute on the planet. People aren’t allowed to own real books anymore. Being caught with a real book can even mean the death penalty.
Why do I keep saying real books? Because there are fake books, so-called ‘blanks’ which people are allowed to possess. It’s kind of hard to describe; the mechanics behind it aren’t made entirely clear in this book yet, but it sort of works like an e-reader? Only with some kind of magic instead of electricity and wifi? And paper? The only books allowed to read are determined by the Library and ‘sent’ to the blanks by the Library. This way, everyone only ever gets to read the same books. And fake ones on top of that. So those real (illegal) books I was talking about are worth a fortune!
Jess doesn’t give two shits about the smuggling business, though. He was just naturally forced into it by his family when he was still a little boy. What Jess does give a shit about are the books themselves. He loves to read, touch and sniff the leather copies his dad makes him smuggle to the most horrible people. This passion for books comes in handy when one day, Jess’ father sends him off to study at the Library’s University, something which is only reserved for the exceptionally rich and/or smart. We then roll into some sort of Hogwarts with pyramids, but with a lot more focus on physical combat.
Jess and the other students there soon find out that the Great Library is a horrible institution, and their scholar, Christopher Wolfe, a massive douchebag.
Why do you want to read this book?
Because it’s awesome. Because it’s fast paced. Because it’s fairly original. Because it’s a book about books! Because there are 3 ‘factions’: the Smugglers/Dealers, the Great Library, and the so-called Burners who’d do anything to put a stop to the Great Library’s ridiculous power, even by (you probably guessed it) burning real books. And you never know where your sympathy really lies (or well, I didn’t), meaning there are some mighty interesting plot twists. The world building is excellent. The characters are excellent. Did I mention the automatons were creepy? Amagad!!
I first thought of giving it 4.5 brownies because there’s a bit of romance in there which could’ve been left out if it were up to me. Plus, the bit about not knowing exactly what a blank really looks like. But then, I thought I shouldn’t be such a sour cunt and just give it the full five stars because I really enjoyed it and finished it within a matter of hours/days.
So do I recommend this book? Yes. Hell
Links to the book: