I tend to read sequels when I absolutely loved the first book. The mission of a sequel, should it choose to accept it, is to develop the concept further. Paper and Fire is the sequel to YA dystopia Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine which I reviewed here. This series takes place in an alternate universe in which the Library of Alexandria owns all books and determines what people read. The publisher offered me the opportunity to review an ARC which I received from them via Net Galley. As you will see, my review is an honest one.
I feel that the most central theme of this second novel in the series is that the suppression of books also suppresses progress. Sometimes a technological advance can be re-invented in every generation, but if everything that's written about it has been suppressed, then no one will ever know. At one point, a character comments about the Black Archives where all the banned books were stored, "this is the graveyard in which they buried our future". Advances that can bring the most change are the most likely to be suppressed because they threaten those who are in power. In Paper and Fire we are also shown that there can be technologies that are in limited use and only available to the elite while the rest of the world believes that they're useless. This is an important theme that has current relevance. Technologies that are more environmentally sustainable have been ridiculed or suppressed for some time in the U.S. by those who advocate for the industries using non-renewable sources of energy.
As in Ink and Bone, I noticed that there was a subtle parallel between e-readers and the blank codexes that contain the magically transported books which people read in this timeline. Many people in our current world don't realize that their location can be tracked when they carry e-readers. Codexes can also track people. Readers learn this when the characters must discard their codexes in order to conceal their eventual destinations.
I thought that the new development in Paper and Fire that had the potential to be the most interesting was the Mesmers. Mesmers are hypnotists who can discover information hidden within the unconscious mind through hypnosis. Rachel Caine obviously named them after the hypnotist Franz Mesmer who must have existed in this alternate timeline as well as our own.
I found one mythological discrepancy. In this novel, Horus is said to be the Egyptian god of scribes and is therefore the patron of the Great Library. Actually, the Egyptian god of scribes would be Thoth. In Egyptian mythology, Thoth invented writing and was the scribe to all the gods. The Wikipedia article I've linked calls him the Egyptian god of knowledge which would make him the most likely Egyptian patron of libraries that do encourage the spread of knowledge. Horus is the god that the Egyptian pharaohs became. When a pharaoh ascended to the throne he became Horus incarnate. Horus was the god of kingship. The Great Library apparently has replaced the pharaohs in this alternate timeline, so Horus probably is the most appropriate patron for that institution.
The plotline in Paper and Fire was very dramatic and intense, but it ended with a cliffhanger which I really don't appreciate. Cliffhangers are emotionally manipulative and unnecessary. I am quite certain that readers would want to read the third book in this series without a cliffhanger. This will cause me to give this book four stars on Goodreads rather than five.