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Sword And Pen (The Great Library book 5) by Rachel Caine (book review).

September 13, 2019 | By | Reply More

Fire is capable of destroying in a way that is spectacular and devastating. Precious things, whether mementos lost in a house fire of important archaeological artefacts like those destroyed in the conflagration in Rio’s Museum can never be replaced. Most people have heard of the fire that supposedly destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria. It was founded to collect the knowledge of the known world.

In ‘The Great Library’ series, Rachel Caine has imagined a world in which the Library became the unifying power of the world. There are some equivalents of modern technology, but other inventions have been suppressed. The printing press, for example, is proscribed technology, the Library believing that it will lose its influence if books are readily available to the populace. In this world, they have recognised the existence of quintessence which infuses everything, a bit like electricity. Some people, Obscurists, can use this and can transmit messages via the tablet-like Codex’s that everyone carries.

Sword And Pen’ is the fifth and final book in this series. It began in ‘Ink And Bone’ with a new intake of students in Alexandria. Among them was Jess Brightwell, the son of a book smuggler and the Library didn’t like anyone owning originals. He and a small cadre of friends were sent to England to rescue books from a ‘branch’ library there ahead of the invading Welsh. As the series progresses, we see more of the world and its differences from ours while the group becomes enmeshed in a struggle for progress within the Library network.

At the end of the previous volume, ‘Smoke And Iron’, the reactionary Archivist has been deposed and, almost by accident, the Black Library has been destroyed. This is where all the proscribed texts were kept. The old Archivist, though, is still a threat. He has followers that believe in his approach and will fight to return him to what they believe is his rightful place.

This makes Jess and his friends prime targets. To complicate matters, the fleets of several other countries arrive outside the harbour and the Russian army camps outside the walls. With the fall of the Archivist, there is a supposition that Alexandria is weak and can be annexed. Holding knowledge and a world-wide communication system would be the first step to world dominance. Finding and neutralising the Archivist is priority, as is finding the plans to the ancient defences put in place centuries ago by Heron, an engineer of considerable genius.

Throughout the series, the students have matured from inexperienced teenagers into skilled practitioners, able to take their places alongside their mentors with confidence. With the tight-knit friendship group, is series falls within the category of Y/A even though their mentors play significant parts within the arc of events.

This is a well-executed and memorable series but is not one that is follow except from the beginning.

Pauline Morgan

September 2019

(pub: Berkley, New York, 2019. 354 page hardback. Price: $17.99 (US), $23.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-451-48924-1)

check out website: www.penguin.com/publishers/berkley/

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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