ARC Review: Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine

Sword and Pen (The Great Library, #5)Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

Warnings: physical and gun violence, mass killings, war

Sword and Pen continues the multi-PoV format as it gives us a wide account of the stand the Library takes against its new enemies. When the old Archivist was dethroned at the end of the previous book, it left the Great Library divided – some loyalists fled along with him, and the remaining, including Jess and his family, are all struggling to bring order back to the Library as they prepare for aggression. Their former allies, including Spain, Japan, England and all others all look to this regime change as an opportune time to plunder the Library, and approach under the pretext of providing protection; when their offer of ‘help’ is declined, war is declared and it is up to Alexandria to dig into its old protections, from the time of Heron, to stop the advancing enemies on all fronts, as well as deal with the rogue Archivist within.

“We’re at war. It felt like he’d always been at war– his family had always warred with the Great Library, and then he’d fought for a place inside it. Then he’d fought to preserve the dream of the Great Library. And for the first time he wondered what peace would really feel like.”

Jess starts the book in a bad place, and things don’t really get better for him as things go on: he gets injured quite extensively while helping Wolfe track down the Archivist, and spends most of the book fighting on, knowing that it is only making his condition worse. Morgan, who had been going over the romantic aspect of their relationship in the light of what her circumstances are, is also out of the picture for him. She, meanwhile, has been working to help the Obscurists branch settle into their new changes, as well as lend Eskander the support he needs; her rising hunger due to the way she pushed herself gets a respite, but it also has its limitations. Khalila shines, as always, as she steps into the politics of the Library, becoming the new Archivists’ assistant and also undertaking some decisions for wartime. Thomas has an amazing journey, a quest of sorts, which I won’t spoil here – best to say that the Library has some wonderful and terrible secrets buried.

‘Tota est scientia,’ he said. ‘Knowledge is all. It either is, or it isn’t; you can’t say some knowledge is evil because it’s inconvenient for you. And anyone who claims differently has no understanding at all of what the Great Library represents.’

There are a lot of moving pieces in this story, because they are constantly putting out fires, real and metaphorical. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat, but the tension can get to you at times. I don’t know if my reluctance to finish this book ASAP was because it was the last (I always have trouble with finales), or because I was too worried at times but yeah, it took me a week to get through. It is expansive, yet the multiple PoV doesn’t distract you – it keeps you in the middle of the action, and shapes the conclusions for the various character arcs. As a finale, it was splendid, and well-worthy of this amazing series.

Is it diverse? Asian Muslim rep; queer rep

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Allison & Busby, via Netgalley.


Previous books in the Great Library series

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) Paper and Fire (The Great Library, #2) Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3) Smoke and Iron (The Great Library, #4)

View all my reviews


Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Released on September 3, 2019

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