In Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, set in 2025, we are introduced into a world where owning a physical book is illegal, where originals are kept safe in the Great Library of Alexandria, and where only certain individuals can handle physical books.
As the story begins we see the world through the eyes of a young boy named Jess who is a Runner. Having a physical book strapped to his body and running out into the streets to deliver a book to anyone who pays the price, Jess has a special bond with books. Not only are they the family business, books are also precious and to destroy one is akin to murder.
Fast forward six years and Jess finds himself with an ultimatum – test into the Library’s staff and help the family business from the inside or live off the streets with no support from his family. Deciding that his first option is the better of the two, Jess is immediately sent to take the test that will define his future.
I am currently a little over 100 pages into the book and I can safely say I am enjoying it. While the first five pages were a bit slow (and the first confusing), I immediately found a connection to the main character and that was our love of books.
One of the things I noticed after Jess leaves home to go to the Library (as a student), is that this reminds me of Harry Potter. While I admit that I’ve never read the Harry Potter series, I can say I’ve watched most of the movies and just the characters, interactions, and travel to the library left me with a HP taste. Even after the focus is moved to illegal books, the fact that this takes place at a school with an uppity teacher doesn’t help in trying to shake off the HP-feeling away.
Currently our main cast consists of the nerdy Arab girl Khalila, the huge but timid German boy Thomas, our main English character with a mysterious and special past Jess, and his dick roommate Dario the Spaniard (sound familiar? HP to me). There seems to be an emphasis in where people come from so I added these tidbits in, however, I don’t really know what the point of that is. It could just be a custom.
While I can’t say I’m impressed with all of the characters, I am crossing my fingers for more tense action both within Jess (what with his family being Runners, where does his loyalty really lie) and out in the real world where he’s being forced to continue being part of the black market and also busting clients as an up and coming member of the Great Library.
One last topic that’s really starting to make me wonder is the Obscurists and the role of alchemy in this new world. We haven’t really learned much of the Obscurists, which play an immensely big role in the workings of the Library. Apparently that’s the Library’s biggest weakness and if these individuals fail, the whole structure pretty much collapses. It’s being hinted that Jess may be an Obscurists, which is a person with an affinity to alchemy, so I am really excited to see this explained more.
I’m guessing that any knowledge of these people will be obtained through…illegal means since it appears they are a taboo subject and just being Library staff doesn’t entitle you to certain knowledge.
Overall, I’m definitely continuing and can’t wait to experience more of this futuristic world where books and people are at conflict.