In this second book in the series about a Great Library that holds all the books that have ever been written, Jess Brightwell and his friends are getting adjusted to their new jobs attached to the Library. He and Glain are High Garda, the soldiers/security, and other friends are Scholars, researching, and Morgan, whom he loves, is essentially a prisoner in the Iron Tower working as an Obscurist.
When Jess finds out it’s possible that his best friend in training, Thomas, a brilliant engineer, was not killed as he’d thought but may be in a secret Library prison, he starts trying to figure out just how to free him. He and Glain, as well as their Scholar friends Dario and Khalila, set out to try to make it happen. But the Library is very powerful and incredibly dangerous, and the tiniest wrong move could put any of them in the hands of the ruthless Artifex, or just into the jaws of the terrifying automata that pace and guard the grounds of any Library holdings.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, Ink and Bone, and loved the premise. But this second book turned into more of a standard dystopian tale of teens out to defeat and even overthrow a powerful ruling institution that’s long lost sight of its original purpose and turned to using any means to keep control, to keep the rank and file in line.
I would have preferred to see the story be more about the workings of the library and all the ways alchemy makes it work. There’s only snippets of explanations about the Obscurists and their gift of “quintessence” that allows them to transport people and things and do all kinds of other science-y/magic-y stuff. So this outing is interesting but I probably won’t be in a huge hurry to read the third book once it comes out.
Rated: Moderate. There’s really not much language, and there’s not even much kissing or sexual content. There is a lot of action and a fair amount of fighting and violence and references to blood and gore.