Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3) by Rachel Caine. Berkley, 2017. Hardcover. 386 pages.
I've been reading this trilogy-turned-series since the first book, Ink and Bone, was available on NetGalley. After reading Ash and Quill, the third installment, I have found this series to be really growing in its potential. Paper and Fire was the second book in this series, and if you read my last review, you know that it didn't really hit home with me. However, where Caine seemed to falter a bit in the second one regarding too much action, not enough plot development, and a lack of intrigue, Ash and Quill seems to pick up and leap forward stronger than ever.
I was already skeptical going into Ash and Quill for reasons mentioned above, and I also didn't really remember a lot of specifics from Paper and Fire, so suffice to say I was really unsure if I'd be able to get into this book and enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Although there were definitely a few things that I needed a refresher on, for the most part the events of this book helped me remember the more important plot points from previous books (for once in my life, I actually wanted an author to do the annoying recap at the beginning of a book), and I found myself enjoying this book from the very start.
From that start, I was pretty much hooked throughout the entire book. It seems that Caine has hit her stride with the characters and the where she wants to go with this series, and both of those elements made this book a really enjoyable ride. Caine has a great writing style that balances efficient, concise prose with emotional, more elaborate prose in a perfect way. She adds page breaks or chapter changes at the most proper moments with great finesse, something that I often find myself frustrated with in some books when new chapters are added too often or at odd times.
(Note: If you have not read the first two books and you plan to, this section might have some discussion that would potentially spoil plot points from the first two books.)
The new setting of Philadelphia with the Burners was a big departure from their previous location, and I think she handled the entire situation really well. I think the Burners themselves are fascinating because of how controversial their opinions and viewpoints are. Because of that, I was glad to have a good portion of this book devoted to being in the midst of the Burners and the regular citizens living in Philadelphia with them. This section did drag on a lot, however, and I did eventually want to speed things up a bit.
Another thing that I have always appreciated in this series, and that I continued to like in this book, is that Caine keeps the entire world in focus. She mentions a huge array of countries from all over the world, which really keeps things in perspective. I feel like a lot of books with this dystopian-feel seem to center on only one or two main continents and leave others out, so I appreciated hearing about what was going on in other places.
I'd also like to point out how much I enjoy Caine's diverse cast of characters! I am absolutely not an expert on the matter, and I'd love to see the opinions of others who have more experience, but I felt that she had good representations of LGBTQ characters, religiously diverse characters, and ethnically diverse characters. It's something that is so effortlessly blended into this book that it comes across incredibly natural, and I love it.
Regarding specific characters... look, I'm still on the fence about Jess. I don't know what it is, but he's just really not someone that I can really seem to like. He's just... not that interesting. This doesn't bother me too much because the rest of the character are all fantastic, and that brings me to something I noticed. I don't know if this how other people feel, but Ash and Quill seemed to really highlight the other characters' strengths and journeys a lot more than Jess', and I really, really liked it. It was especially neat to me that, although Jess is a pivotal character in this series and has his own strengths, the rest of the characters are just as important. Thomas is the main man with the power to create the most important object in this book, Morgan has strong magical abilities that puts her at great important, Khalila is incredibly talented and the most social adept of the group, and Dario is just... well, Dario in all of the best ways possible; he's definitely grown on me. Glain was sort of put in the backseat - she was mentioned so rarely that I often forgot about her. Wolf and Santi are, as always, amazing and I love them. Also, I've found myself oddly intrigued with Jess' brother, Brendan, who provides such a foil to Jess' character while also remaining something innately familial about them that it's fascinating.
Overall, Ash and Quill was a great read and I am looking forward to the next installments in this series. Four stars from me!
*I received an ARC of Ash and Quill courtesy of NetGalley and Berkley books. This has no effect on my rating/review of the book!*
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