2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
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Book Review: Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine

I LOVED this series!! I am beyond sorry to see it end, but what an ending…

The Great Library is on its last legs. Enemies are closing in on all sides. The team is facing unbelievable new provocations, threats, and opportunities. And merciful heavens, did they – and the story – rise to the challenge!

This has been an incredible series, with exemplary world-building and characterization. Caine has done a remarkable job with it, and I think it is by far her strongest, best work. In this final installment the action and tension are ramped up to an almost unbearable level, yet she manages to tap-dance among land mines, keeping her cast moving forward at levels that exceed previous expectations – and that’s no small feat AT ALL.

The writing is strong, the plot brilliantly twisty (as are the characters’ motives, actions, and relationships), and the action never lets up. It is difficult for an author to maintain tension across a number of series books (this is #5 – incidentally, to me, the perfect number in a complex series), particularly when it involves younger characters who have to grow into the situations that they face. Caine has done a marvelous job with that.

“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.”

Her characters have continued to develop in a believable, likable (or dislikeable – depending on the character) way throughout the series. I was surprised at how strongly I reacted to the action – and consequences – facing them in this final story, and it delighted me. I was also pleasantly surprised at her ability to keep the pace even throughout, particularly given the significant action/adventure elements that she laid out almost from the onset of the series. Things developed in a way that felt organic and entirely believable, despite their ramping up to almost unbearable levels. In this it reminded me of the Harry Potter books – things went from relatively light to incredibly dark, but they did it in a way that felt natural and evenly so at each development point.

This is a marvelous series and I will definitely come back to it again. There is SO MUCH going on here that I’m sure I missed some interactions and foreshadowing/final resolution moments from start to finish. I read each book in a furious race as it came out (again, redolent of the HP books), beyond eager to see where things would go. It meant that I no doubt missed some of the nuance, and one of my favorite things about series like this is the ability to go back and revisit them to catch any things I may have missed. If you haven’t started this one, you definitely should – it’s well worth the time you’ll spend on the five-volume set!

Oh, and I have to comment on two affiliated bits – the cover and the omnipresent playlist that Caine always includes at the end of her books. Her covers are usually amazing; in this series they’ve been PHENOMENAL. And the playlists – she always appends a list of the music she listened to while writing. It’s a cool idea and I think adds a depth and flavor to both the author and the stories, by offering a glimpse into the space in her head that she occupies while she comes up with her tales. There are usually only a few titles that I’m familiar with, but I’ve found some incredible bands and songs by investigating her playlists, so be sure to check that out also!

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my review copy.

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