By Cynthia Ayala
The Great Library controls knowledge around the world with an iron first with ruthlessness where books are everything and life means nothing. For Jess Brightwell, he knows this too well. After surviving his introduction, losing his best friend and love of his life, he strives to fight for what it right. Banding together with his friends, hunted by automata, he is forced to flee Alexandria, but London is no safer. Secrets come to life, and the path to the Library’s ultimate destruction has been set. Jess and his friends just need to survive it.
Published on July 5, 2016, by NAL, Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine, The second novel in the young adult fantasy series, The Great Library, follows Jess Brightwell as he deals with the aftermath of his friend’s death and the power of the Great Library of Alexandria.
It’s a small span of time that has passed since the previous novel and Caine highlights that by doing quick bursts of summary tying it to the emotional aspects of the characters as well as the character dynamics. Where the first novel was really about setting the world and the characters, keeping the pace somewhat slow within the rising tension, this novel moves very quickly. The events continue to unfold one right after the other, bringing the characters back to one another. The pace and the tension don’t let up, drawing the reader into the story. It’s continuous, it flows, and it makes reading so much easier because with the rising tension and the quick pace, the reader gets lost in the story. The vignettes do slow it down just a bit, the emotional tension within the words and the messages going on to elevate the story and give it a deeper mystery. So even when the story slows down for that page, the reader is still hooked on the language and the story. The vignettes also reveal more history in this alternate history tale, to the library, so the audience can grasp just how they continued to be such a powerful force to reckon with. Knowledge is power, and more often than naught, power corrupts, which is what happened with the library.
What is also interesting to see is how the world shaped itself because of the library’s power. Caine’s imagination is powerful; she has created a world where based around books and a library that was destroyed so long ago. Mechanics have changed, the world is so different from reality, and it sparks something in the reader, it sparks the imagination within the reader to visualize this world because it is vividly painted.
Paper and Fire is a powerfully written novel that develops the characters and their relationships very well. The reader has a strong sense of who they are because they have grown since the last book, everything the characters want to do, everything they went through has changed them so much from those opening introductions. While the essence of who they remain, the characters themselves have simply blossomed. They have grown from kids into young adults who are ready to die to save those closest to them and undo all the wrongdoings of the Library.
The novel centers around the idea that knowledge should be accessible to everyone, not just the library, not just those with power, and these kids seek freedom from the restrictions of the library, from the oppression of it. In a tension driven novel, they have become strong freedom fighters every reader will root for. (★★★★☆ |B+)