Introducing a Read-Along of Rachel Caine’s Great Library Series

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Zoraida Córdova and Kate Elliott would like to invite readers to join them here at Tor.com for a six part read-along (not counting this post) of Rachel Caine’s five-volume Great Library series.

Libraries as archives of records and writing appear early in history in places like Sumer, Egypt, and Zhou Dynasty China. One of the most famous of these ancient libraries is the Great Library of Alexandria, founded and built by Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II, and expanded into a daughter institution the Serapeum by Ptolemy III. For a while the Great Library was probably the largest library in the Mediterranean and Western Asian world (the Ptolemies surely intended it to be so), but under later Roman management the institution fell into neglect and eventually was destroyed and most or all of its scrolls burned. This decline and destruction happened in stages rather than in a single riotous act but the end result for us in the modern era remains the same: A great repository of knowledge was lost.

As her jumping off point, Caine uses the existence of the Great Library in her foundational alternate-history premise: Instead of being lost, the Great Library not only survived but thrived and eventually took control of all permitted transmission of knowledge in the world. The opening volume of the series, Ink and Bone, begins with a prologue set in 2025, and the main story’s “present day” takes up the narrative six years later.

In her own words, the Great Library is a series “about the nature of information, ownership, and guardianship of heritage. It’s a book about books and e-books, the Internet and print, rigid beliefs and violent revolution.” What a timely read! And not only timely but what a great contrast between a love for libraries and books set against the terrible power people who control access to knowledge can have. How will Caine unfold this conflict?

It’s also a school story: Young people sent off to make their way at the equivalent of competitive academic boarding school where being a good student is prized and respected. More catnip for the bibliophile and for the lover of school stories!

Add in a generous helping of “things aren’t as they seem,” shadowy authoritarian figures lurking in the background to weave in with a tightly written action plot, and an ensemble cast brimful of secrets, lies, and hopes, and we can’t wait to get started.

Caine is the author of multiple bestselling series. Among others, she’s written the 15 book Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden fantasy series (starting with Ill Wind), urban fantasy series Outcast Season and Revivalist, the adult thriller series Stillwater Lake, and with co-author Ann Aguirre the YA SF Honors trilogy.

It’s a pleasure and an honor to dig into the strands of alternate history she has used to create the complex and exciting world of the Great Library and its characters.

Here’s the plan for the read-along:

In one week, October 8, Zoraida and Kate will discuss book one, Ink and Bone, and we hope you will join in with your own thoughts. Each of the subsequent four volumes will follow at two week intervals:

  • Paper and Fire: October 22
  • Ash and Quill: November 5
  • Smoke and Iron: November 19
  • Sword and Pen: December 3

A final post on December 17 will offer up some conclusions and if possible refer back to comments made in the comments section of earlier posts.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating and discussing this biblio-centric speculative fiction series!

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