Title: Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1)
Author: Kim Smejkal
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 11th, 2020
A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.
Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.
Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.
To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Kim Smejkal for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**
Ink in the Blood is a dark fantasy with cult/religious involvement, magic, and sacrificing for the greater good. Our MC Celia looks to escape Profeta, the church, in which she was conscripted against her will to be an Inkling. Inklings have the ability to tattoo other people with the church’s instructions on how to change their lives. Celia comes to see the corruption within the church, and with the help of a fellow Inkling, Anya, she escapes with a traveling comedy group.
It took me about 60% percent of this book to really get into it, which was part of why the rating on this is lower. Once I got into it I finished it in one sitting, but it took me awhile to get to that point because it didn’t capture my attention. I want books that will hook me immediately, and this one was not the case. There was a lot of backstory given in the beginning with world-building, but it wasn’t the kind of world-building that drew me in.
The magic in this book fascinated me – I knew I wanted to review it when I saw the tattooing was the magic. I didn’t realize the level of religion involved, which also brought it down a bit for me. Something about this book didn’t sit right with me and I’m having a hard time narrowing down what it was. I almost wish the church had less of a hold on people in the book, because it really portrayed the general population as sheep, incapable of thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.
One thing I loved about this book was the romantic interest for Celia. The Plague Doctor reminded me of Jacks from the Caraval series and I loved it. He is a soft, broken boy who comes across as villainous and detached until she is able to break him down. Swoon. Celia was a good enough MC – she isn’t perfectly moral and she isn’t completely evil, she’s somewhere in the middle like the rest of us.
I do plan on reading the sequel when it is released, because the ending really surprised me. There were some lovely twists and turns in the last 25% of the book that I wasn’t able to see coming, so it helped the overall experience of this book for me. I’m hoping now that the world is set up, the sequel will be more action packed and attention grabbing.
Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂