imagine a world where no one was allowed to own books. but unlike, say fahrenheit 451 where all books are burned, in ink and bone we exist in a world where books are held sacred. they are not burned. they are kept in one library, the great library of alexandria, their original bindings not to be touched by the hands of regular people.
of course, such lofty ideas often run amok of basic human feeling. we crave ownership, power. if someone is keeping something from us we can't help but want it more. and that's the world jess brightwell lives in, and he has it worse than many, because he lives surrounded by smugglers and thieves. money and self-interest instead of love and affection shaped him. that and the one night he saw someone eat the last remaining copy of an original work, an ink-licker who eats books to keep them away from anyone else. it's the sickest kind of hoarding. jess is intimately familiar with the ugliest human emotions, and still as cynical as he is about the world he lives in and the motivations of the people that surround him he manages to draw out the light in others.
it's quite a talent he has. and one that serves him well as he enters the great library as a postulant to a library position. he knows that his background may be his undoing and it's not entirely clear that he is meant to be a scholar or a librarian. and yet he faces every adversity the trainers throw at him, and the alliances and friendships he forges allow him to grow in his role. not that we can be quite sure what his role will end up being. but by the end of the novel we do know this, the world as he knows it will change, it has to change. and jess will be instrumental to bringing that change about, even if it is the last thing he ever does. there are rules that bind the people in this world, all of them meant to preserve knowledge and yet also in its way all meant to inhibit progress. but you can't stop progress, not really. and we'll get to see where it all leads soon enough, paper and fire, book 2 in the series is due out on july 15th.