REVIEW: ‘Sword and Pen’ by Rachel Caine is an emotional conclusion to an excellent series


Rachel Caine concludes her fantastic Great Library series with yet another un-put-down-able novel!

Sword and Pen witnesses a final return to the streets of Alexandria to round up the chaos of the previous book.

The blurb:

Jess Brightwell and his friends have achieved the impossible: masterminded an uprising against the Great Library, and toppled its corrupt regime. But while the battle is won, the war is far from over.

A new Archivist must be crowned, one capable of weathering the political storm. With the Library reeling from the coup, foreign nations are circling, eager to plunder the world’s knowledge. And the old Archivist, their despotic enemy, has fled into hiding and plots from the shadows. Threats could come from anywhere, at any time. Any of Jess’s friends could be wounded or killed in an instant, and the future of the Library hangs in the balance.

This series has had a special place in my heart since it began with Ink and Bone back in 2015. It was conflicting to read Sword and Pen: I wanted to reunite with my favourite characters — to see how everything worked out — but I desperately didn’t want it to come to an end.

Well, it has. And what an ending. It was emotional yet well-rounded, with some devastating outcomes as well as some more than satisfying ones.

I love the variety this book has to offer. Set in a world where every country finds unity in the Great Library, there are characters of every nationality and religion throughout the novel, and the series. The diversity is immense and I love how real this makes it. The story flows so naturally because you know it is a real representation of how the world works.

Another notable thing — a particular favourite of mine — is the ease to which women rise to power. Again, the way it is written is so natural, so unquestioning of it, that it is hard to believe our societies don’t function like this already.

Despite some occasionally-shaky sentences, I adore the style of this novel. Rachel Caine describes everything so beautifully it immediately comes to life. Even though I read the previous book, Smoke and Iron, over a year ago, it took mere seconds to sink back into the world of the Great Library. It’s just that vivid.

Caine has put our characters through hell throughout the series, with each coping in different ways. I have really enjoyed seeing how they manage grief and loss and the questioning of everything they hold dear. Where some have thrived, others have fallen, and I think this only serves to demonstrate how unique everyone is.

The (ex)Archivist, in particular, is constructed with craft. His evil, self-serving nature is revealed earlier in the series, yet it develops even further here. He descends from a high-and-mighty ruler, to a madman who cannot see past his own importance.

I could go on and on about this novel, and about the series as a whole. It covers not just books, but politics and religion and magic, showing how they interlink to create this complex, chaotic alternate reality. I love it with all my heart, and I am sure you will too.

Make sure you pick up Sword and Pen, or the whole series if you haven’t yet!

A truly fantastic series


Sword and Pen is a brilliant ending to one of my favourite series. It has everything you could wish for, and I particularly enjoyed that Caine ensured it remained realistic right to the end. Even though this meant some devastation for both myself and the characters.

I applaud Rachel Caine for this series, and urge everyone to pick it up.


Eleanor is an English graduate and Medieval Studies student looking to use her skills to help save the planet. She adores reading and knows books will always be at the heart of her life, no matter where her career takes her.

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