There haven’t been many books this year that I’ve wanted to read and read and not put down, but this was one of them. The first in a trilogy [I think] and it was a ride!
In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.
Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar . . . but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.
Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn. . . .
It’s an interesting premise – one that takes the dystopian ideology that is so popular at the moment and runs it throughout the whole of the last two thousand years. What if the Library of Alexandria had survived? And more than that, because of it’s survival a different way of life evolved?
The story is set in the 2030s. But in reality we have a society that is backward to what we would recognise from out own. There are steam carriages a la steampunk, futuristic bullet trains, technology that mirrors books from the original. No printing press despite how often people come up with the idea, and harbouring original books is very much a black market activity.
There’s a side to the story that is also a little mystical – Obscurists – these people run the alchemy behind the Library, they are both exhaulted and held captive by the Library, never to really see the world again.
At the start we’re introduced to Jess Brightwell, a character who’s family is deeply involved with the black market. He loves reading, and despairs that original books get taken by the Library, but more so when Burners sacrifice themselves and books to the fires, or when people literally rip out the pages of originals and eat them. [Yes, that happens].
Initially, I thought Jess was a girl. I did get very confused about this, mainly because I’ve always associated the name Jess to girls. He also has a twin brother, but he doesn’t get much mention in this book. There’s going to be some deeper stuff with him as the series progresses though.
Jess gets sent to learn and be a part of the Great Library. His teacher is someone that I could only envisage as Snape but in the desert. Black robes and everything. In fact… I’m not sure I remember the teachers name! I just kept thinking of Professor Snape, down to the snarly attitude as well!
The class Jess joins starts off with about 30 members. They are vying for just 6 spaces, and everyday, including the first day, are are risk of being cut from the class. Death isn’t an uncommon way to leave the class either. Of course, being the protagonist, Jess makes it to the end, but it isn’t easy.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the book from here on in, but it was one of those that I felt was perfectly paced. It wasn’t rushed, so wasn’t over super quickly, nor was it drawn out making it a drag to read. It was everything that I needed in a book especially as I haven’t had brilliant reads so far this year, except perhaps my first book of the year.
When I add books to my GoodReads queue I tend to add one at a time when it comes to a series. Just because I’ve read one book a series doesn’t mean I’m going to read them all. But with this book I added all the available books to the queue – I know I’m going to enjoy them just as much as the first one, even if I did accidentally read a spoiler from the blurb before
Is this one that you’ve read? What did you think?