Review: Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine

Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Published by NAL on July 5, 2016
Series: The Great Library, #2
Genre(s): fiction, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, young adult
Format & Pages: e-book, 368
Find on GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & Noble

In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…

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

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 and doomed to a life apart.

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, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…


Paper and Fire has something of second book syndrome. While I still found it to be enjoyable, this novel has lost some of its charm that was in its predecessor, Ink and Bone.

“Anything is possible. The impossible just takes longer.”

This is a plot driven novel in which nearly nothing happens, despite all the action that takes place. And it is fairly predictable, not only because the story line of teenagers trying to overthrow the authorities is one that has been done often, but also because the “ephemera” (texts of letters written) included between chapters foreshadowed what was to come every step of the way. In addition, I was disappointed to find the characters (including Jess, our main character) continue to lack a depth or complexity. Some of them have grown from the first book, but I had hoped they would start to become more three-dimensional and sadly, they did not.

“And you think the Codex is your doorway into the Library? It’s a little box they hand you – a curated, careful selection. They tell you what you can read. The Library shows you a fraction of what they have – trust me, I’ve seen tens of thousands of books go through my family’s hands that never appeared on the Codex and never will.”

That being said, Caine’s strength in building a world that is rich, complex, and immersive still made for a satisfying reading experience. And the last few chapters started introducing some new and interesting ideas in setting up the third book. I’m looking forward to see what will happen in Ash and Quill, and whether or not it recovers the magic I originally found in Ink and Bone.

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