Jess has had to outrun the guards of the Great Library his whole young life, smuggling banned books for his father’s black-market business. Real books, originals written on paper, have not been allowed in the people’s hands since the Great Library was begun in the reign of Ptolemy II. Alchemy allows people to read temporary duplicates of original works, kept by the library, on “blanks,” but any and all real books are hunted down and sent to the library. Scholars work for the library, the High Garda act as its military force, and Obscurists practice the alchemy that makes the whole system work.
Jess’s father decides his twin, more ruthless than he is, will run the family business, and he has paid for schooling for Jess. Now that he’s 16, he can take the test that will give him the chance to try out for a position working for the library. The test is the easy part. Getting through the training to be granted one of the six spots open to new “hires” is the difficult — and dangerous — part. The library keeps a lot of secrets and will do anything to keep them and maintain its control over the knowledge of the world, and the people in it. As he makes friends and even falls for a fellow acolyte, he will have to figure out exactly where his allegiances lay if he wants to get a position — or just stay alive.
Ink and Bone sounds pretty cool if you love books: I mean, we’re talking about a giant library that holds all of the books ever written in the world for thousands of years. But the book isn’t about the delights of a huge repository of books; the library is essentially just another symbol of oppression and consolidation of control over people. The book is set in the near future but with a very different past. It took me a little while to get into it, since the author really just jumps right into the action (which pretty well characterizes the entire book: it’s fast-paced) and I slowly started figuring out how the world of the story works. But once I did, I was hooked. Now I must wait for a second book.
Rated: Moderate, for a fair amount of mild and moderate language (it seems particularly concentrated at the very beginning). There is a lot of intense action and frequent violence, though it’s not usually too detailed or gory. References to sex are few; there’s some kissing. There are two homosexual characters, but the references to relations between them are brief (and their sexuality isn’t even referenced other than a couple of mentions of them being together in a home or room).