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.