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Again, I listened to the audiobook for this but my review will work for any format.
This review is completely spoiler-free.
***Please don’t use any of the graphics in this post.***
Paper and Fire is the second book in The Great Library trilogy written by Rachel Caine. Because this is a spoiler-free review, I won’t go into the detail about happens in this book and simply say it follows the adventures of Jess and his friends post-Ink and Bone.
I didn’t know what to expect of Paper and Fire. Ink and Bone had been great, but not as great as I was expecting it to be. So I trod carefully with this one, and kept my expectations as low as possible in order to avoid disappointment. I don’t know if that was the reason I ended up liking it more than its prequel, but the truth is I did and I’m so happy about it!
Besides moving at a much quicker pace (unlike its prequel, which dragged a lot at first), with enjoyable twists and turns, it definitely provided a closer look into the world of The Great Library and made me fall in love with its concept all over again.
There’s a greater understating of its history, politics, mechanics, ideals and a lot of revelations are made. We get to explore the hierarchy and its branches and how it came to be what it is, by whichever means.
The characters really make for a cohesive and interesting party, with many divergent personalities. I think they’re all past their stereotypes by now (highly prevalent in the first book) and surprised me in a positive way. I honestly thought I wouldn’t care much for them in the long run but they did end up finding a place in my heart. I’m still not a fan of Jess and/or Morgan, but they too are growing on me.
One of this series’ great assets is truly its depiction of friendship. One can feel how strongly these characters care for one another and how they’d go to extreme lengths to protect their friends (even more so than their families). And that definitely raised the stakes on this one.
I didn’t care much for the romantic relationships because they absolutely paled in comparison. But Caine didn’t give them as much importance either, and cleverly kept them in the background as an afterthought. Their purpose was to play a significant role in the character dynamics and decision making, which was a great little trick.
Not to say the romance didn’t feel expandable, which it did. But there was just so much going on already that the poor attempt made at creating these flimsy relationships (which held little to no substance) didn’t affect the story that much. If Caine wants to explore them further in a third installment, I just hope she does it right.
I found myself empathizing more with not as well developed characters who just happened to show up on occasion (like Brendan, for instance). We got to know more about them and what moved them forward, which I thought was a lot more interesting than what was going on with the main characters. Sometimes they just felt too flat and predictable to be as equally enjoyable. But I still felt an improvement from the first book.
The series seems to be getting darker and darker, although it’s still a bit too tame in my opinion. Bad things constantly happen to good people but I would have liked it to feel a lot less safe than it does. Usually, nothing truly outrageous happens to the core of the group; it’s always the side characters. And if it does, it’s usually solved quickly, which doesn’t build a lot of tension. I’m hoping that changes in the third book.
Overall, Paper and Fire was a great sequel. I think of Ink and Bone as more of an introduction than anything else and so this one served as the propeller for an even bigger story to take place. Everything is in motion now and ready to either triumph or fall. So I’m really looking forward to find out which one is it.
A lot of my questions and doubts were answered, and the story is definitely making a lot more sense now. So, of course, it makes for a much more enjoyable read. No more feeling absolutely lost and confused about the infinite plot holes!
I think this sequel really shows the characters’ development and how they’ve grown from the first book. It was a big leap, but one that made sense considering the circumstances. Jess is a much stronger protagonist and one I actually like, now.
I absolutely want to see Caine taking even more risks in the third book, but she’s definitely on the right track.
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Thank you so much for reading and until next time!
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