Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn… (goodreads.com)
INK AND BONE is a fun, exciting book if you’re not familiar with Alexandria’s, or Egypt’s, history and don’t think about the world-building too much. Otherwise it’s an alternative history where A LOT has been set aside and not even touched or expounded upon for the sake of telling a story. So I’m torn on this one.
On the one hand I did enjoy the story. I thought the development of Caine’s library as this outwardly sentient being being run by corrupted men from behind the curtain was interesting and unique and wholly refreshing in a market of broken dystopias or supernatural worlds. It offers something different, where literacy and knowledge have gone to an extreme so much so that’s it’s reversed back over itself and knowledge is, once again, fully controlled for the sake of “protecting” the population.
I enjoyed the characters, each and every one of them, especially Jess’s teacher there, whose name escapes me at the moment. All were incredibly lifelike and jumped off the page and held their own. While some were less appealing than others, they all brought their own special brand of life to the table that was hard to ignore, especially as the story progressed and everyone was thrown into battle and forced to protect each other.
The world itself is incredibly intriguing if considered on its own, mutually exclusive to anything even remotely historically accurate. If you view it from within a bubble and don’t associate it to anything, it’s spectacular and imaginative and compelling.
However, taking the story into historical context it completely falls apart. There’s no why or how answered at all. In fact everything is pretty much brushed aside except for the concept of “the library at Alexandria never burns.” The implications of that are massive yet the world we get is vaguely Victorian. It’s set in the future, but our current technological path never happened and everything’s a bit more steampunky with elements of magic if we’re talking about the people who run the library. And then there’s some random war between Wales and England that felt really contrived and set entirely for the sake of creating a hardship for the characters. Not sure what was going on there.
To call INK AND BONE alternate history is kind of a misnomer. It assumes that historical context is even considered. It’s not. Literally it’s just the concept of “the library at Alexandria never burns.” It ignores literally everything else and aside from a couple of poignant known historical inserts like Gutenberg, it skips ahead a couple thousand years to give us the current story.
I liken this book to the Red Dawn remake. If you take it on its own, not related to anything else, it’s a good movie. But the second you relate it to its predecessor it just goes up in smoke. INK AND BONE does the same thing. Taken as its own self-contained story in a world that’s entirely made up except for the library at Alexandria and it’s a good book. But the second you actually try to relate it to its real thing it turns to sand and blows away. Look, I liked the book enough that I want to read the next one. But this is not alternate history. There was not nearly enough care taken to make this an alternate history. It’s a futuristic steampunk dystopia with an ancient library at its core. The name merely makes it relatable. It could have been named something entirely fictitious and it still would have worked. And I wouldn’t have bugged out about the world nearly as much, if at all.
The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.
Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history. (goodreads.com)
Ugh. I love Moran’s writing. Few people can write historical fiction that’s as engaging and vivid as Moran can. The extensive amount of research she does for each book is evident, but not in a I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU ALL MY RESEARCH sort of way that some authors have a tendency of falling into. With Moran you only get what’s necessary to paint the scene and to bring the world to life. She never bogs down her work with superfluous detail and with everything I’ve ever read by her she sucks me into the story and doesn’t let me go until the very end, leaving me out of breath and vaguely stunned.
Moran brings life to the past and makes these ancient people as relatable as anyone else, despite the fact that they’re inbred royalty. The inbreeding is mentioned a little bit toward the beginning, because, and someone can correct me if I’m wrong, Nefertari is a half sibling to Ramesses. Egyptians were really into bloodline purity to the point of siblings procreating. Pharaohs were descendants of gods and those lines need to be kept pure. Whatever they needed to tell themselves.
Anyway, Moran really makes you feel for Nefertari. She’s basically this shunned princess (the niece of the heretic ruler Akhenaton who tried to convert the Egyptians to monotheism by worshiping one god, Aten), grudgingly kept around because she’s in favor with Seti and that’s about it. She has people around her desperate to get her to maneuver politically in order to ensure not only her own survival, but to bring their own desires to fruition, and they just to happen to line up nicely with Nefertari. You see her, and Ramesses, make grievous errors in their judgment that have serious repercussions and it kills them that these things happen. Neither one of them are really game for political posturing, but both understand the necessity and neither want to do something rash just because they can. They’re both very self-aware in that regard and it humbles them even more.
I never want to come out of one of Moran’s books. Especially those about Egypt. The amount of love she has for history is so evident in the life she breathes into the past. Hell, Moran is such a fantastic writer that I’ve found myself reading books of hers pertaining to things I was never previously interested in. Well, I am now! Her dedication to preserving the past and her love for it are evident in her writing. She handles these ancient worlds with a kind of reverence that’s missing in some historical fiction. It’s why I can’t get enough of her work.
Okay. Before this totally turns into a gush fest. THE HERETIC QUEEN brings ancient Egypt to life and breaths life into historical figures whom we only know as drawings on rocks, nearly lost to the sands. Not only does she bring the technical aspect to her writing, but she gives these ancient people lives. Personalities. Experiences. She makes them human and reachable. I can’t get enough of it.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
When Jocelyn and her best friend, Madge, arrive at the gates of Brookline sanatorium—fresh out of nursing school—they are eager and excited to start their new careers. But from their very first meeting with Brookline’s austere warden, they can tell their new boss will be . . . difficult. Then Jocelyn wakes up in her room one night to the sound of screaming, and she starts to wonder if the treatments in this asylum are entirely humane. But the warden has his eye on Jocelyn—and the treatment of patients should be the least of her concerns. (goodreads.com)
THE WARDEN, I think, is the creepiest out of all of the novellas Roux’s written within the ASYLUM world. Not only is it set within the asylum itself, but you get to interact with the warden himself in a very tangible way. He’s no longer a flashback or something seen out of the corner of an eye or whispered about in passing. He’s a living character in this snippet of a story and you get to see firsthand just how manipulative and insistent he is about his way of doing things and experimenting. You see how he plays with people and actively distorts their realities in order to achieve his ends. He’s more terrifying than any jump scares could offer.
Within a short number of pages you see how the characters spiral despite their best intentions and greatest efforts. Really no one’s any match for Warden Crawford. Once you’re in his web he’s got you and there’s no getting out.
Considering I just bought the book that has this complete set of novellas in it, I’d say THE WARDEN is an excellent addition to the spooky, creepy world of ASYLUM. It’s not overwhelming, it’s not about cheap scares. It’s far more insidious and will dig into the heart of a person’s fears and uncover it for all to see.
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire. (goodreads.com)
Ugh. If there ever was a sequel just as good as the first in a series, it’s A CROWN OF WISHES. Written in the same golden prose as A STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN with a story that stabs you in the gut and a heroine that would sooner set you on fire than save you, I couldn’t get enough of it. I just want to eat it all up.
But then I might turn into a werewolf creature. And that would be bad. Maybe.
Gauri is Maya’s sister, for whom A STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN was about. And she does make a brief appearance in A CROWN OF WISHES, but don’t expect a lot. This is Gauri’s story. And she’s so incredibly fierce and determined and vengeful and sometimes pig-headed. I actually think Chokshi balanced her character well, creating a wholly likable person in Gauri while being incredibly flawed and not obnoxious. Personalities like Gauri’s, if overdone, can come off forceful and off-putting. But she was snarky, witty, and all around awesome.
And, like the first one, there was some prince being in need of rescuing. I love that Chokshi keeps flipping the story like that. Gives me the warm and fuzzies.
And let’s not forget the world. My god, the world! Just as strong and vivid as in the original, it’s its own character in the book, coming to life on the pages as Chokshi weaves a dark and dangerous and appealing web of her world. I couldn’t get enough of it, the world whore that I am.
If there were to be a third book, and I’m thinking there might be, I think I know just whose story it might be, and my god. I can’t wait. MOAR! When’s the next one coming out? What do you mean A CROWN OF WISHES isn’t out yet? How’s that relevant? MOAR!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Click the link to read an excerpt from A CROWN OF WISHES! –> A Crown of Wishes_Blog Tour Excerpt
For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.
Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.
Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.
The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm. (goodreads.com)
BLACK CITY SAINT sounded like a really interesting read, combining faerie things and the Roaring 20s together in an epic battle of good versus evil. Except it landed rather flat, with me being disinterested most of the time.
I couldn’t really connect with Nick as a character. I think it had a lot to do with how he spoke. It was just really stilted and almost disinterested, plus a lot of things ended up getting explained in the past tense and he ended up blacking out a lot so chunks of action were skipped. A lot of the actions scenes were also over-explained to the point of being too involved. I found myself glazing over for a good portion of the story as any concept of action was removed as Nick thwarted another foe with his faerie sword. He had quite a few items on him that made him hard to beat (that sword that could kill pretty much anything, the dragon living in him that could annihilate anything, his faerie senses, made him rather dull, I think).
Claryce just became downright annoying, but I really don’t think it had anything to do with her as a character. She appeared to do a lot of things off the page and held her own a lot that as a reader you don’t get to see because she’s away from Nick and the story’s in his POV. As a result Claryce ends up being this rather whiny, clingy woman who always wants to be around Nick and is always worried about him. The two parts of the single character stood in stark contrast against each other throughout the story. I think she was supposed to be a strong woman, but because we never got to see it, and I was only told that he’s done some incredible things, it all fell flat.
As for the overall plot I was less than impressed. It dragged out for an overlong time with Nick and his nemesis having unnecessarily long conversations with each other that reminded me of bad movie villains. Just get on with it already. I didn’t find anything about what happened exciting and I had a hard time keeping my attention on what I was reading.
Overall, BLACK CITY SAINT was a miss. Great premise but blah execution. From the voice to the descriptions to the Stu factor going on with Nick, it just wasn’t my thing. It didn’t stick for me.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.