Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
Series: The Great Library (Book 3 of 5)
Genre: Young adult, alternate history, historical fantasy, fantasy
Published: July 2017 by Berkley Books (US) and Allison & Busby (UK)
Immensely engaging and intense, Ash and Quill was mid-series perfection.
Three books in and my enjoyment reading these books has not tapered in the least. In fact, I’m getting even more invested in the characters as the stakes get higher and the situations more dangerous and dire.
I found out from reading a couple of other reviews that The Great Library was initially planned to be a trilogy, but was then changed to a 5-book series. After finishing this third book, I do think that the extension was warranted. I couldn’t imagine how the story could be wrapped up so soon when it involved the overthrowing of such a pre-eminent power of the world. Moreover, when the concept libraries are involved, it is a tricky balance for Caine to ensure that the drive of the narrative is not so much to destroy the Library itself (gasp!) but the corrupted power at its core. And I trust Caine not to go down that route given this beautiful dedication at the start of the book.
“To all those who face change with fear. Go forward.
To the ever-transforming glory of the public library, without which we would all be diminished.
No one with a book if ever alone, even in the darkest moments.
We are all book lovers.
And we all chase the Great Library of Alexandria, one book at a time.”
Ash and Quill truly has everything I wanted in a mid-series book. Following the cliffhangerish ending of the previous book, Jess and his friends found themselves caught behind enemy lines. What ensued was a narrative that was relentlessly intense, but interspersed with enough contemplative and interactive moments between the characters to fuelled their development further. The plot escalated to a fever pitch by the end of the book with an even more anxiety inducing cliffhanger. This time I don’t think we’ll be waiting much longer before jumping into the next volume.
“When all the world is a lock, boy, you don’t make a key. You become a key.”
I want to talk a bit about Jess Brightwell. As much as I enjoyed the previous books, I don’t think I’ve ever come to the point where I found myself this invested in him. But darn it, this book did it for me. There were moments here where Jess was backed into a corner so tight that the frustration and sense of hopelessness that emanated from him felt raw and primal. And it chilled me to the bone. What made it even more difficult for him to maneuver was his loyalty and love for his friends. I read the last couple of chapters almost in disbelief at the plans that he had to put into play. One thing I’ve also come to truly appreciate now was the significance of the Brightwell legacy that Jess carried on his shoulder. Two words came to mind which I couldn’t shake off – criminal royalty. His character became even more compelling to me. As well as his romance with Morgan Hault, a fatal attraction of two persons who have the propensity to darkness for survival.
“Our words must live after us, if we are to lift ourselves up.”
It is very rare for a book in which every single member of the main cast of characters interests me so much. Jess’s best friend, Thomas, in particular, has changed since we’ve first met him given what he went through in the cruel hands of the Archivist Magister. While he’s still as kind and sweet as ever, the gentle giant now has an edge to him. While it’s distressing to acknowledge how much he had to suffer to have changed like this, it did make his character even more intriguing and layered.
“I intend for the Great Library to become more than mere knowledge. I intend for it to use both pen and sword.”
I won’t mention too much of the rest for now, cos I might run out of things to say in my reviews for the remaining books. In short, Khalila was becoming more awesome than I ever imagined her to be. Glain was her usual badass self and her one-liners were gold. Dario surprised me in a good way. Santi and Wolfe continued to make my heart ache. Safe to say that I’m utterly and thoroughly invested in what is to come. Even better is that I have my co-bloggers and buddy-readers, Celeste and Eon, along with me on this spectacular ride.