Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Ash and Quill

Title: Ash and Quill
Series: The Great Library
Volume: 3
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk
Release Date: July 11, 2017

Jess and his group have fled from London to the Burner-held Philadelphia, where they immediately find themselves imprisoned for being members of the Library, albeit rebellious ones set on changing the system. Their only bargaining is the plans for a printing press, which will free the distribution of information from the Library's stranglehold.

eARC received through NetGalley

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A fast-paced and complex continuation of a series with a great premise and fantastic characters.

Review: I feel like I start a lot of my reviews like this, but look at this cover. Isn't it beautiful? This series is really upping it's game in the cover department- the first book was okay, the second book was lovely, but this one is really great. Okay. Now onward to the actual review part.

There is one thing I'd like to mention in terms of content going in. A main/predominant secondary character (not sure how to describe her character-status, but she's kind of my favourite, so main character to me, probably secondary character narratively?) in this book wears a hijab, and in this book, when the group are violently searched, the scarf is momentarily torn off. While this is clearly emphasized within the book to be a bad thing, and all of our lead characters are horrified and angered, it does still happen- something that may be upsetting for some people to read, especially in the world's current social climate of people being awful to Muslim people for no good reason.

This is the third book in what is to be a five-book series, and it dives right back into the action, essentially carrying on from where the second book ended. They've fled to a Burner-held city, where they're really not safe- one thing we see is the degree to which they aren't really safe anywhere. The enemy of their enemy, in this case, is not their friend, but more of another enemy. This book starts off fast, and doesn't let up- there's a lot of action, and, even when there isn't an actual action scene, Rachel Caine does a good job of maintaining the tension.

It's still impressive to me how BIG this world is. There's a lot going on, and things just keep happening. Last book demonstrated that the Library isn't a monolith, and many of the characters who are currently resisting the Library aren't doing so because they feel that it is 100% evil- sometimes the motivation is the opposite. In this book we also get to see more of that grey area- especially given that quite a few of the main characters are also somewhat grey, including Jess himself. I definitely found myself cringing a little at some of his choices in this book, but they were still totally understandable, especially given his character and history.

There are also A LOT of characters, and Rachel Caine does a good job of juggling her constantly expanding cast and making them distinct. Something that I find I really appreciate about this series is that there are adult characters who really do respect the autonomy and abilities of the main cast, most of whom are teens. (Wolfe and Santi have been two of my favourite characters since book one, so I've been delighted by their continued presence. And also concerned for their safety. Also that.) There's such a wealth of characters that I'm not great at picking favourites- you'll notice I've kind of already mentioned three favourites... The cast is also fairly diverse, as well- there are a few points where I think the author it's possible may have stumbled a bit in terms of representation, but overall seems to have done a fairly good job, especially in terms of making her characters individuals. (I can't speak to all of the representation of course, and am mostly speaking from an outsider's perspective. I'm hoping to read some reviews from those in the communities represented in these books to see how they felt, now that I'm done the book and don't have to fear spoilers!)

Similar to how a lot of the stronger parts are evident in the first two books, something that I disliked is also a carry-over: Jess and Morgan as a couple still... is kind of boring to me? I know it should have emotional resonance, especially as it was given more time in this book, but I still kind of feel like there's more nuance to Jess's relationships with basically everyone else- I think I just wish they felt more like he and Morgan were friends as well as the romantic component? So that still kind of interrupted the flow for me, but it's something I've kind of accepted is going to be something I might not really get.

Overall, this was a great contribution to an excellent series, and I'm really looking forward to the next book- especially with that cliffhanger, which was, frankly, stressful. I am stressed. I'm also really curious where the story is going from here, both from plot and character perspectives, but also from a storytelling perspective.

My reviews of the rest of the series so far:


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