New York: Berkley, 2017 (382 pages)
Jess and his cohort of library rebels have been taken captive by burners in Garda-besieged Philadelphia in this 3rd installment of Caine’s Great Library series. In order to keep themselves alive and their group intact, they must prove their individual worth. It’s easy for Thomas Schreiber, inventor extraordinaire, whose printing press plans threaten the Great Library’s stranglehold on information, and who spent time in prison as a result. And it’s easy for Morgan Hault, the obscurist (one who provides the alchemical process that transfers text to library “blanks” and mans the translation chambers that can move books and people from one place to another, among many other things). Her kind are rare these days, and the Great Library wants to see her safely locked away in the Iron Tower of Alexandria where she will stay until she dies. The rest of the group can be easily disposed of. The heads of the Great Library, the Archivist Magister and his right hand, the Artifex Magnus, have been trying to get rid of Jess, Glain, Dario, and Khalila ever since they helped Thomas and Morgan escape. Scholar Wolfe, their teacher, and High Garda (Library military) Captain Santi, Wolfe’s beloved, have been on the executor’s list for even longer. While in Philadelphia, Jess and crew are witness to another perspective. Little did any of them realize how much they’d be able to empathize with the burners, whose grievance with the Great Library translates to self-immolation and terrorism. Thomas and Jess work on a printing press with the meager scraps at hand, while Khalila and Dario prove their worth by helping to translate the books they smuggled from the Iron Tower’s Black Archives (books and manuscripts the Great Library deemed worth censoring from public use). Morgan helps boost the harvest with her obscurist powers, and Wolfe and Glain watch over Santi, who was badly burned by Greek fire in a High Garda attack on Philadelphia. The group realizes that it must also find a way out of the city, for they recognize that once their usefulness is through, they will be sold off or killed. Unfortunately, this happens sooner than expected. Morgan’s obscurist power is tainted when she overextends herself, resulting in the rotting failure of the town’s harvest. The hungry, besieged people have had enough of the unwelcome visitors, and Jess’ group must accelerate its plans to escape. At the same time, the Archivist Magister and Artifex Magnus have decided that Philadelphia must burn. The group and some few of the city survivors make it out alive, but Philadelphia is flattened in the attack. Jess and friends make their way to England, where they enter a new kind of prison under the wily and self-serving “protection” of Calum Brightwell, Jess’ father. This time, Jess realizes that there is only one way to escape, and that is to play along. The cost for his friends will be revealed in book 4 of the Great Library series.