Title: Paper and Fire Author: Rachel Caine Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Alternate history.
Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.
Paper and Fire, by Rachel Caine, is book 2 in the Great Library series, and explores what might have happened if the Library of Alexandria was not destroyed, but instead preserved, and went on to become a powerful and untouchable force in the world.
It’s hard to do a decent review of this book without being all spoilery for book 1, so I’ll just talk in general terms about what I find so compelling about this. Firstly, it’s no secret I’m a great lover and supporter of libraries. Their ability to support and empower communities by providing free and equitable access to ideas and information is something I value so highly. The importance of that concept is something this series strives to hammer home – how different would the world be if libraries sought to control that access rather than to enable it? It’s a powerful idea to ponder, particularly in a world which takes easy access to information for granted (sometimes at our own peril!)
Secondly, found family. My favourite trope. It’s probably the great strength of this series for me – seeing the bonds that are formed between the unlikely group of friends and mentors. It’s not always easy though, as a number of characters have to grapple with notions of trust and honesty – when is it right to withhold information from the people you care about? Who gets to make that decision, and is it right if it’s for their own protection?
This book contained one of the most emotionally devastating scenes I’ve read in a while – again, trying hard to be spoiler free, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I got to the end and took a moment to hug my bookshelves. (It took a while. There are a lot of them). The final chapter felt a bit rushed and book-2-cliff-hangery, IYKWIM, but I’m not sad about it. Mostly because I’m starting book 3 when I wake up in the morning. Not a bad way to spend yet another weekend in Covid lockdown, I guess
NSWPRC Officer, Teacher Librarian, English teacher and social media advocate. I've been teaching in Western Sydney for my entire teaching career, and love my job more than I love Neil Gaiman. (That's a lot, in case you're wondering!) I stalk authors (but always politely), fangirl over books, and drink coffee. And one of my guilty prides about my children is that they all have favourite authors.
All opinions are my own.