Title: Sword and Pen
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #5
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: September 3rd, 2019 (Berkley Books)
Synopsis: With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it’s worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.
The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library . . . or see everything it stood for crumble.
The rebels have taken Alexandria, but at a very high cost. Even as the Great Library pulls itself back together, the Archivist, now in exile, is still within the walls of Alexandria, plotting his return. Armies from various countries have also descended on the city, seeing an opportunity to take control of the knowledge long guarded by the Library. Facing war on all sides, Jess and his friends face their biggest challenge yet, knowing that spies and traitors are around them, infiltrating even the Elite.
It was nice to see that the Ephemera between chapters was back and they definitely added an element of excitement and suspense to the story, as we get glimpses into events happening alongside the story that the main characters don’t yet know. The multiple POV which was rather abruptly introduced in Smoke and Iron is still here, but is much better balanced now, and the narration flows smoothly between characters, allowing for some pretty good cliffhangers. As ever, the world-building in this series is my favourite aspect as it combines several concepts I love: science, engineering, mythology, history and of course, books.
Another lovely thing about this series, and this finale in particular, is that it perfectly showcases how this group of people from completely different backgrounds and upbringings have come together, learned to respect each other, forming firm friendships to create a new family. This is most obvious for Dario – despite his airs, his heart is in the right place, as are his loyalties, but for the others too, especially seeing how well they work together in this book.
The pacing was not well balanced in this book, however. It had its action-packed moments and several twists, but in between those, the story lagged a lot, especially in comparison to the non-stop excitement of the previous two books. Jess breathing in the dragon fire right at the very beginning and that more or less putting him out of commission for the rest of the book was really annoying, and it felt like it might have been done on purpose to give page time to some of the others – not necessarily a bad thing, but this could have been better executed.
And Morgan…she’s a character I’ve always been rather conflicted about, and that really didn’t change with this book. There were times in this book where I genuinely thought she might snap from the stress of her powers, but her ending was pretty much what I was expecting, and strangely enough, I wasn’t all that affected by it (probably because I was too busy worrying about Wolfe and Santi surviving). Which brings me to my main complaint for this book – why is it that the villain gets killed almost as an afterthought – and off screen at that – in a scene so thoroughly anticlimactic? This is something I have noticed in a couple of series over the past few years, and frankly, it’s annoying. The book builds up to a showdown that we never get, and are instead diverted to a completely different climactic scene, that, while admittedly appropriate, was hardly the action-packed ending I was hoping for.
Overall, this was a satisfying conclusion to a great series, and I’m really sad that it’s over. Sword and Pen was an entertaining read that leaves room for more stories to come. Highly recommended!
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!