“Ash and Quill” by Rachel Caine Pt. III of the Great Library Series

by Sharon Tucker

Details on how to win a copy of the first book in the series, Ink and Bone, at the end of the review & a link to purchase Ash and Quill.

Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.
― Carl Gustav Jung

How might the world be different had Rome not destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria? In Rachel Caine’s Great Library Series, Egypt has remained the center of world culture, surviving and flourishing over the centuries by controlling all dissemination of knowledge and by the use of alchemy. It rigorously trains acolytes to carry on its legacy of repression and exclusion.

Book smugglers make fortunes running and selling original texts. Book burners are fanatics who delight in burning every book they can get. Worst of all, the Library’s officials maintain order by way of automata programmed to kill for any infraction. Instead of disseminating knowledge freely, the Library has fallen into utter corruption of its purpose. In Ash and Quill (2017), our hero Jess Brightwell and his class of six widely differing young individuals trained by the Library come to what is left of the United States, hotbed of the Burner movement, and must survive by their wits.

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In the preceding two novels, Ink and Bone (2015) and Paper and Fire (2016), we have first been in Alexandria, Egypt where we met this particular class of Library initiates and learned with them the true nature of Library power. By the second novel, Paper and Fire, the class has managed to escape Library prosecution for their waywardness to London, finding the country at war. Wales has laid siege to the city of Oxford and is ready to move on to conquering London, with no end of the war in sight.

Ash and Quill finds our errant class still led by Christopher Wolfe, the Library Scholar in disgrace, but he and his pupils have escaped to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “Burner” capital of the world. We have learned with the class that the consequences of standing up against the Library are severe, however, this journey into the fanatical world of burners is even more sobering. Philadelphia itself is under siege, frequently bombarded with Greek fire by the Guarda Army of the Library.

fantasy novel
Image Source Berkley

Our hero Jess Brightwell and the rest of Caine’s characters develop along the lines readers of the previous books might have expected, but here in Philadelphia, the conditions are so brutal one comes close to losing heart. Jess, a book smuggler born and bred, is still our protagonist, still not the son his father hoped he would be, but then familial loyalty was never his father’s strong suit either. Jess continues to use his smuggling knowhow to keep his fellow students and wayward professors alive. The tension builds as Jess and his friends endure everything from the onslaught of Greek fire on the already ruined Philadelphia to a betrayal so unexpected that I’m relieved I came to the series late enough that I already have book four, Smoke and Iron (2018). I can immediately see how this turn of events plays out. After the initial shock, you will admire Caine’s audacity.

Readers will benefit most by reading the series in order of publication date. Not that each book isn’t a sufficient adventure with multiple reference points to what has gone on before, but why miss how these students built knowledge and trust amongst themselves and their teachers to try the boldest stroke ever attempted in the history of the Library? Why miss the introduction to the splendor that was Alexandria and the tyranny that rules London? You owe it to yourself to see the Library’s errors give rise to the beauty of what Caine attempts here. She makes quite a statement on the nature of power and tyranny. In addition, you would be wise to have Smoke and Iron to jump right into.

To enter to win a copy of Ink And Bone, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "ink,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 4, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

You can find more fantasy reviews in out Fantasy and Fangs section.

You can use these links to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel---a mystery, of course---well underway.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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