Top critical review
Frustrating at times, but a likable sequel that builds on Ink & Bones's world
Reviewed in the United States on July 24, 2016
Actual Rating: 3.5 out of 5
If Rachel Caine's Ink and Bone introduced a steampunk future where the Great Library of Alexandria controlled the global distribution of published material, then Paper and Fire yanks out the first bricks for the Library's fall. Jess and his former co-Postulants are now in their new assignments, guarding the Library's goods as scholars-in-training or (in Jess's case) in the army. When Jess discovers that a captured friend he'd feared dead may be alive, he rallies his allies and launches a rescue mission. But tracking down a Library prisoner is no easy task. And as Jess's band makes plans that could break the institution's grip on knowledge-sharing, they quickly realize they're running out of places to hide - and out of time.
Paper and Fire featured plenty of what I had enjoyed about Ink and Bone. Character diversity, international locales, the dangers in serving or rebelling against the Library - it made a fascinating premise before, and it works again here. Caine expands on her world-building, taking readers inside the Library militia, prison system, and the Black Archives, where the most forbidden books are stored in secret. Also, Christopher Wolfe is an intriguing twist on the mentor archetype. Mysterious and at times caustic, he's vocal about his views on the Library's abuse of power and his suppor for his students' ideas - because despite his tormented past, he remains a revolutionary at heart.
At the same time, Paper and Fire suffers from the same issues I had with its predecessor, and then some. The chapters are quite long, and Jess and Morgan's romance still makes no sense to me. And the climax - gosh, was it chaotic and confusing. Plus, the official blurb pretty much spoils how it ends, so nothing about it surprised me. So, yes, I'm disappointed that Paper and Fire unraveled a bit after a strong start. But it was still a good read, and I'm curious to see how it all ends with Ash and Quill next summer.