Ink in the Blood

Ink in the Blood

by Kim Smejkal

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328557056
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 02/11/2020
Series: Ink in the Blood Duology Series
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 89,530
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Kim Smejkal lives with her family on Vancouver Island in Canada, which means she’s often lost in the woods or wandering a beach. She writes dark fantasy for young adults and not-so-young adults, always with a touch of magic. Ink in the Blood is her debut novel.
Twitter: @KimSmejkal
Instagram: @kimsmejkal  
 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Another question mark bloomed on Celia’s forearm, bigger and bolder than the others. The ink unfurled in an oily black stretched-out tentacle, wrist to elbow, the dot on the bottom a furious splatter. An hour ago Celia had still tried to hide Anya’s messages by tugging her shirtsleeve down. An hour ago she’d still cared that she was in a busy shisha lounge, surrounded by people who might notice the strangeness of Divine tattoos appearing, then vanishing, on her skin.
     But lovely absinthe made cares like that disappear.
     Celia pressed her finger to the angry splotch on the bottom. I’d tell you where I am, Anny, if only I knew! Her gaze drifted over the haphazard collection of empty glasses on the table in front of her. “Huzzah, absinthe.”
     The rest of the room was alive with clusters of pretty people doing flirty things: enjoying their drinks and smoke, unwinding after a long day of doing whatever it was normal people did all day. Shimmering tenors, as individual as fingerprints and much more visible, shone around each body. Tenors were usually the boldest thing about a person’s look, but there in the lounge their glint and vibrancy blended in the fog of shisha smoke that swirled from the colorful hookahs. Glasses clinked, laughter swelled, and everything fluttered: colorful sleeves, loose pants, long hair, light from a hundred candles, jingly jewelry hanging from ears and wrists and necks.
     With her black everything—short hair, suspenders, tie, top hat, attitude—Celia stuck out like a monochrome stain amid all the color and life. Judging by the lounge owner’s fluency in scowls, they’d finally noticed.
     Not bothering to right her awkward sprawl, Celia smiled as they approached.
     Or maybe it wasn’t a smile, but a frown.
     Whichever way was up. Whichever way was down.
     “Time to move on,” they said, their voice a deep baritone.
     No, time to take a hostage. Pulling the hookah to the floor, Celia clamped the large bowl between her legs and hugged tight around its neck. They wouldn’t muscle her out with so much expensive blown glass at risk. “A few more blasts, good soul,” she said, jiggling the mouthpiece in her hand and then putting it to her lips.
     The smoke trapped in the bowl tasted like all the people who’d touched the pipe that day, swirling together. Dia, how long had she been sitting there, doing nothing but staring?
     The owner raised their caterpillar eyebrows as Celia struggled to hold in a violent cough. “You’ve had the green fairy; you’ve had some shisha. Now out you go, Lalita.”
     A flush crept up Celia’s neck. Fragile bird, my nimble little ass.
     A few people had turned their attention toward the standoff, and as Celia hugged her hookah tighter, the lounge owner’s lips formed a grim line. “Here, hire a gondola and get home.”
     As they dropped her own kropi back on the table—each copper coin etched with the creepy four-faced image of the Divine—the edge of a black tattoo peeked out from under their sleeve. Both reminders of “home,” the place no amount of absinthe could erase. Their big hands found her armpits. They lifted her up, an arm wrapped around her waist, and eased her out of the lounge.
     On the wet street, mist replaced pink smoke, darkness replaced candlelight, gray streets replaced warmth and color. Someone shouted nonsense or poetry from a nearby balcony, their voice echoing in the night. As they rambled about a love gone wrong, (or perhaps their cat was missing?), Celia considered transforming the lament into a duet. Woe to the inklings who cannot escape! Mumble, mumble, rhymes with escape . . .
     Another voice interrupted. “Cece!”
     Anya. That same angry friend who’d messaged Celia all night. A twinge of guilt flared to life, and Celia stifled the urge to dart back into the lounge.
     As she strode toward Celia and the owner of the lounge, Anya’s black hair lapped at her shoulders in tidy waves, her midnight-blue top hat perched perfectly straight. A buttoned-up trench coat flared out behind her thighs, and her umbrella doubled as a walking stick, tapping a rhythm into the cobblestones. Anya looked perfectly composed. Then, and always.
     Long and low, Anya muttered “Dia . . .” under her breath as she approached. The lounge owner startled at the curse, dropped Celia’s arm, and took a step back, reacting as if Celia was the devil Anya had just named. Their look of shock was quickly replaced by one of anger and youth these days . . . no respect. They turned and stalked back into their bar, violently brushing the stain of blasphemers off their coats as they went. If Celia’s loitering hadn’t banned her from coming back, Anya’s curse just had.
     Stifling a smirk, Celia bowed. “My love, my love, you’ve found me. The smoke was pink tonight. The shisha was happy.” She swore the smoke changed color depending on the shisha’s mood, logic be damned.
     Anya steered her away, but they made it only around the first corner before Celia grabbed the nearest wall and painted her boots with a swirl of green fairy absinthe. Huh, looks exactly the same coming up as going down. She knocked her feet against the brick wall and wondered if someone would lick it later, grateful for a free drink.
     Anya rubbed Celia’s back, her words tight despite the calming gesture. “You’re a disgusting creature, Celia Sand.”
     That wasn’t news. Groaning, she pushed away from the wall and prepared herself for the lecture.
     The air around Anya flickered in an aura of red hues. Everyone projected a tenor—an oscillating personal spectrum of gender in myriad colors. Tenors showed something infinite about a person and gave it over to concrete, manageable language: He, They, She, or No Thanks to Any of That. There were as many tenors as people in the world, and Anya’s tenor burned so familiar that Celia would have recognized it in a crowd of thousands. She knew Anya better than she knew herself, which meant that even before meeting Anya’s gaze, Celia knew she’d find a withering stare.
     “You’re almost at the docks,” Anya said, grinding her teeth so the sound crunched its way up Celia’s spine.
     Celia blinked in surprise—and a fair bit of pride—that she’d made it so far from the temple without remembering any of it. That explained the stronger than usual stench of fish.
     “I know you got my messages,” Anya said. “Why did you ignore them?”
     “I didn’t have my quill?” Celia ventured.
     Inklings always had a quill. Usually many. One day Celia and Anya would wake up to find the raven feather fused to their fingers.
     More horrible grinding, Anya’s whole jaw working hard until her nostrils flared with a deliberate exhale. About the biggest tantrum Anya was capable of throwing.
     But no lecture came. Instead, “You have to get back.”
     It took a moment for Celia to process Anya’s words. “What? Another one?” Her mind sputtered. She’d assumed that after the afternoon she’d had, she wouldn’t be missed for a while. She should have known better.
     Anya nodded, and Celia’s cloud of guilt blossomed into a wild thing, growing heavier as Anya turned tender: tucking Celia’s hair behind her ears, straightening her top hat (a losing battle), and adjusting her blouse.
     “Vomit everywhere,” Anya whispered. She wiped her fingers on the bricks beside them, her frustration fading away to sighs. She wrapped an arm around Celia’s smaller shoulders and squeezed. “You can’t keep doing this to me, Cece. When it’s over, when you’re okay, I need to know.” Only a short lecture, then. A familiar one.
     Celia stared blankly, ignoring the occasional claps of arguments or drunken laughter assaulting her on the otherwise dead streets. The buildings were tightly pressed together and built upward, competing for space amid a crisscross of canals and bridges. More gondolas than rickshaws ferried the few people still about. So much water everywhere: it fell endlessly from the sky, was constantly underfoot, and . . .
     Earlier that day, the temple had punished Celia with water. Cleansing, they called it: only a little, strategically poured, but enough to perfectly mimic drowning. The stories said that the Divine had drowned a millennium ago, which somehow justified repeating the horror on misbehaving inklings.
     The punishment itself didn’t last long. A few minutes after she’d stood up from the wooden floor, soaking and gasping, Celia could have found Anya and told her it was over. She should have. But it wasn’t the first time she’d experienced that particular punishment, and it wouldn’t be the last, so what if the point was that she was never okay?
     Celia took Anya’s hand and laced their fingers together, squinting into the creeping fog swirling over the canal and searching for a wayward gondolier for hire. If she could stretch her gaze around corners and westward, away from the Lassina Sea that hemmed them in, the stagnant Asuran canal must eventually find a real river. Far beyond the masses of buildings, docks, and mold, the land would gradually lift around her. Eventually they would leave the sogginess of Illinia behind and enter Kinallen, with its famous plateaus and spectacular hills. She tried to imagine it—crisp, dry air, bright sunshine, green cliffs, a country so breathtaking poets wrote songs about it—but it was like trying to savor a slice of ripe, rare apricot on your tongue while standing at the gallows.
     The temple had more work for her: another Divine tattoo to complete, another person’s life to affect. If she took too long to answer the summons, she just might end the night as she’d started it: on a wooden plank floor with water pouring down her nose and throat, breaking off breath.
     Woe to the inklings who cannot escape . . .
     The prow of a dilapidated gondola broke through the thick gray fog—all peeling red paint, rotten wood, and ragged gondolier at the helm to match. His tenor flickered in silver hues, its natural brilliance dulled by the heavy air. Celia raised her arm to him. “Does anything rhyme with escape?” she asked Anya.
     Taking poetic license, Anya came up with quite a list as she stepped onto the boat: “Scrape, reshape, agape, agitate.”
     She helped Celia in, continuing, “Translate, mistake, urinate, charade . . .” as the gondola sailed off into the mist.
     Any of Anya’s words could have fit into the next line.

The Profetan temple stood atop the only hill in the waterlogged delta. Every alleyway, building, and canal in Asura boasted a good view of the looming stone turrets and waving flags. The algae-coated bulk was the city’s pride, the biggest red dot on every map of Illinia.
     The giant statue of the Divine—the temple’s marble crown—perched on the highest tower, up so high it pierced through clouds. Human shaped enough to be familiar, inhuman enough to be sinister, the omniscient Divine was depicted as a robed figure with one head but four faces, each facing a different horizon. The Divine’s outstretched hands had one palm facing up to the angeli in the heavens and the other turned toward the diavoli of hell.
     Each face and both palms boasted one large eye.
     Those six eyes, gazing into all worldly horizons and the hidden realms of the afterlife, somehow comforted believers, as if omniscience equaled altruism. Celia had realized long ago that the Divine was either wildly malicious or didn’t exist to see anything at all. If she was so pure, all-knowing, and compassionate, how could she let her own religion turn so crooked?
     Where the Divine supposedly guided the temple’s followers toward heaven, Diavala, the wicked trickster, lured victims toward hell. Carved into the same marble centerpiece as the Divine, Diavala peeked out in anguish from beneath the Divine’s robes. Reaching one crooked hand out for help, her lips hung open as if she’d been squashed mid-sentence.
     The pathetic look was part of Diavala’s con, but Celia had always related to her position. She tipped her hat to Diavala in greeting, since her existence was far more likely.
     Then she tipped her hat to the guards, who let them in after checking their expertly forged permission papers. Authentic passes giving inklings permission to leave the temple grounds were as rare as an Illinian sunny day, but the guards didn’t know that.
     Arm in arm, Celia and Anya approached the main square. Their footsteps slowed, their chins dropped, their heartbeats dimmed, the temple and terrible statue casting its familiar heavy blanket over them. Even so late into the night, the perpetual hive of activity proved that those serving the Divine never paused for sleep. The lamplight throughout the square reflected off the damp cobblestones and lengthened the shadows of the rushing crowd.
     How fast people moved showed the temple pecking order. The long-robed mistico—the holiest and most powerful of the Divine’s workers—walked as if they waded through water, graceful and composed. They could travel with their eyes closed and not bump into anything; paths cleared for them. Everyone else who contributed to the maintenance of the temple, such as guards, cooks, and servants, strode around with purposeful steps, no-nonsense. At the bottom of the hierarchy, inklings such as Celia and Anya scurried like mice, weaving around those destined to walk in straighter lines. Inklings possessed the only real magic in the world, but that didn’t count for much. They had only enough of it to prop everyone else up on their backs.
     On the bright side, being so low meant not having to wear a uniform. The temple relied on clothing donations for inklings, and as a result of a healthy benefactor rivalry, inklings were probably the sharpest-dressed underlings in the world. If Celia ever had to forfeit her top hat for a robe, that would be the last straw.
     Celia and Anya didn’t walk any faster once the crowd swallowed them. A small cluster of apprentice inklings passed, each sporting dark circles under their eyes and balancing a stack of books and papers with tired arms. “But can the tattoo change size once we send it to the receiver’s body?” one asked. The others were too tired to answer his desperate questions. They must have been the oldest eight-year-olds in Illinia.
     “Celia!” A raven-haired apprentice trailing at the back of the group lit up, shrugging their shoulders and bobbing, trying to wave a greeting without the use of their arms. “Celia! Celia!”
     Anya chuckled and lifted her hand in a wave. “They were frantic earlier,” she said, and called out, “Hey, Wallis. Yes, we see you!”
     Wallis was torn, clearly debating whether they should abandon their group. Their gaze swung with the beat of a metronome between their friends and the two older inklings.
     Celia didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. For whatever reason, small, bubbly Wallis liked her. “You’d better study hard, Flea!” Celia called, gesturing for them to keep moving. “Off you go.”
     Walking backwards to keep eye contact, Wallis nodded. After only a brief hesitation Celia crossed her fingers and held them up to her chest, exactly what Wallis had been waiting for. Their entire face stretched into a wide smile before turning around to catch up with their group.
     Looked like Celia was telling bedtime stories to the fleas again. Whereas full-fledged inklings slept alone in small, stark rooms, apparently needing no company except their Divine, the apprentices still had communal dorms. They were a rapt audience for Celia to unleash her imagination on.
     And somehow that particular flea had a keen ability to wheedle story time out of Celia more often than not.
     Anya delivered Celia all the way to the doors that led to the workroom. “Tomorrow might not suck,” she said with a sarcastic smile. So casual, as if she hadn’t had to break a dozen rules in order to make sure that Celia answered the summons that night. Celia didn’t believe in the Divine, the all-knowing, and she highly doubted Diavala, the pitiful step stool, but if she stretched her imagination, she could believe in angels and devils; for years, Anya had been too good to be true.
     Celia inhaled deeply and straightened her top hat (again). Only a little vomit still clung to her boots—just enough to scandalize whoever noticed it, but not enough to get a full reprimand.
     The line between what they could and couldn’t get away with had taken ten years to sketch out, but both she and Anya had it perfectly memorized.


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Ink in the Blood 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Kaleena 6 days ago
Smekjal’s writing is lush and beautiful with beautiful descriptions but is also fast-paced and engaging. The book opens up in media res and we jump into the fray with Celia. The action, character introduction, and worldbuilding are all introduced slowly while not sacrificing one aspect of the story for another. It is worth noting that the tone of the first act of the book (about 120 pages) doesn’t really hold a candle to the rest of the book. While I was interested in the day-to-day of inkling life in the temple, as well as Celia and Anya’s careful exploitation of doctrinal loopholes, the book really shifts at the end of Act I. The first section interesting and full of important groundwork, but everything clicks in a truly magical way on page 140 and I was hopelessly addicted. If you try the book and struggle a bit, I do recommend trying to get to this point before deciding to set it aside. I absolutely fell hard for Celia and Anya within four chapters. Their fierce loyalty to one another and deep friendship warms my heart just thinking about it now. They are both so brave! From their little acts of defiance to outright fleeing from the temple with a traveling theatre troupe to spoiler-y things I won’t talk about, every choice they make is an impossible one, but one they ultimately make out of love for one another. If there’s one thing that I love more than tattoos, it is probably theatre, so imagine my glee when we meet the Rabble Mob theatre troupe! And this group of characters is gloriously fantastic. I love how everyone feels like a real person, with goals and a personality, regardless of how much “page-time” they have. I’ve got a confession to make…. my favorite character of the book is the Plague Doctor. I guess I like my guys with an air of mystery and mirth, but whatever. I really enjoyed learning about his character as he became comfortable enough to share and need to protect him always. This book and world is gloriously inclusive, and many LGBTQIAP+ readers will be able to find themselves in the story. Every character has a tenor (think aura) that essentially shows their identity to others. But the tenors are fluid and can change over time. I really enjoyed this aspect a lot. Everyone’s identity is accepted without question, which goes to show how having your labels readily available can make such an impact. This book features pan, ace, nonbinary, and trans characters as well as on-the-page m/m, f/f, and nb/m representation. I really enjoy books that explore religious themes and have religious systems as part of the worldbuilding. The Profeta religion is at the heart of Ink in the Blood with Celia and Anya questioning their role as inklings, finding clever loopholes to skirt the rules, and ultimately running away from the temple. While themes of corruption and stripping individual freedom from believers are explored, I like that it is done in a way that doesn’t necessarily vilify the people who find comfort from Profeta, and Celia’s narrative is quick to remind us of that. The critiques are largely about choice and not the teachings themselves, which I really appreciate. Overall, I loved Ink in the Blood! Once Act II started, I was hopelessly sucked into the story and read the book for hours. The magic system of divine tattoos is so unique, and I simply adore the world that Smejkal created. I’ll just be sitting here anxiously looking forward to the second book in this duology & recommending this to everyone until 2021.
MkMason 10 days ago
**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.
magicalreads7 14 days ago
4.25 stars **I received an ARC from the publisher. These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** I was also so excited to start this book. I mean, tattoo magic! Female friendships!! Overthrowing an entire religion!!! Ink in the Blood tells the story of a battle between an angel and a devil, two best friends caught in between, and everything they’re willing to do to set things right. I’ll admit, it took me a bit to get into the book, just because I wasn’t in the right mood at the time, plus it’s purposely roundabout in its prose at times. However, it definitely picked up. I was really into the second half and couldn’t put it down! The worldbuilding was really cool. Ink in the Blood revolves around Profeta, a religion centered on the Divine who channels magical ink through blessed people called Inklings. The whole world is also very gender-inclusive! Everyone has a tenor, something like an aura, that shows a person’s pronouns. It’s just simply a part of the world, nothing special; it just is. There’s also canon f/f and m/m couples mentioned, and Celia, our protagonist, is wlw! Celia is an Inkling, as is her best friend, Anya. Together, they escape from the temple, joining the Rabble Mob (basically a travelling circus) as a means of protection from punishment for running awary from Profeta. Except Diavala, the devil figure, has followed them and is aiming to create chaos. Celia and Anya then set out to unveil all the lies of Profeta to the people while balancing on a knife’s edge so as not to upset Diavala. The vibes of the book lowkey reminded me of the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus actually! Celia and Anya form strong bonds with the people in the Rabble Mob, discovering a new family, one the temple has never felt like except for each other. It was really interesting reading about all these characters and their tightly knit group dynamic. The romance was nicely intertwined with the plot. Celia’s tension with Griffin was very real. I’m interested to see how their relationship develops in the next book! Celia’s relationship with Anya made me cry honestly; it’s all platonic, no romance between them, but their dynamic was heartwrenching. I mean, the way that they’ve been each other’s only family for the past ten years and the way that they would do anything for each other! I loved them. I really loved the writing! Typically I hate when books end every chapter with a one-liner, just because it loses meaning and weight the more you do it. However, it works so well in this book! Although, again, it would get a bit confusing to follow but also I wasn’t focusing as much. It is meant to be confusing though, if that makes sense; not in a bad way, it’s just that the whole book feels like a riddle. Overall, Ink in the Blood was a stunning debut. The worldbuilding, characters and their relationships, and writing were all so good. I definitely recommend Ink in the Blood for fans of The Night Circus, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and/or Leigh Bardugo!
Anonymous 15 days ago
Thank you HMH Teen and NetGalley for providing me with a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. Anya and Celia live in another world, different from ours, where the one true religion Profeta rules the hearts and minds of the people. As Inklings, Anya and Celia tattoo the followers of Diavala, Profeta's deity, with divinely inspired images and symbols meant to inform and manifest each recipient's unique destiny. Eventually, this holy work wears on the pair, and the girls abandon their sacred calling and flee in the company of the Rabble Mob, traveling entertainers who welcome the girls into the fold. Unfortunately, in a world that turns only by divine will, these two may find it difficult to escape Diavala, and may find that even the things they imagined were not real want to subvert and upend their desire for freedom from life defined by worship, blood, and free-flowing ink. I really enjoyed how Anya and Celia stuck together and supported each other in Ink in the Blood. The themes and world-building had many unique aspects blended with some recognizable building blocks (magical acts may ring a bell if you enjoyed Caraval). A big strength of the book is the formation of a unique culture that these girls must navigate, and I like that Kim Smejkal explored the implications of this culture and how it affected society. If you're looking for a blend of magic, strong friendship, dangerous deities, unique magic, and a fight for freedom from an oppressive, deceitful culture, look no further than Ink in the Blood.
marongm8 15 days ago
This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I fell in love with this book right from the beginning. The concept and execution Kin Smejkal took with this book was very unique and different which made me like it more. I myself have never been a huge fan of tattoos but when these tattoos reveal a lie that has been told for generations and the teachings Anya and Celia have learned all their lives have all been lies and things were not exactly as they appear, the story got more shocking than the next. Because this book was so different focusing on a whole alternate concept, our teen book club is bound to sure love this. We will consider adding this title to our YFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
onemused 15 days ago
INK IN THE BLOOD is an engaging and atmospheric YA fantasy. Celia Sand was delighted when she was chosen to serve the Divine at six years old; her mothers were so proud of her. However, Celia soon realizes that this devotion is a curse, and being an Inkling is anything but good. Inklings serve the Divine by creating tattoos with messages that the person needs to hear, and those tattoos give them direction for their life choices. However, as Celia has learned over the last ten years, the messages are not always good, and frequently could be interpreted in many ways, though the person will see one. The ten years in which she has served have been tortuous, and her body bears the physical scars of this abuse. Celia wants out, and she is determined to take Anya, for whom friend is too small a word to describe. However, getting out is nearly impossible. A way out presents itself through a Mob, a group of performers like a theatre troup or circus. Mobs have their own rules and can do as they please, but it is very hard to become a member- they rarely accept outsiders. They travel around to different countries and put on shows, often comedies, and some people seem to exist only in costume, never resuming their birth persona. After an audition, Celia and Anya join the Rabble Mob, a group that soon becomes family. They bring a whole host of interesting characters and experiences, but their time in the Rabble Mob is tainted by the religion that follows them and threatens the people for whom they have come to care so deeply. What I loved: The representation among the characters is amazing, and I love this idea of a society where each person is Kid until they are old enough to decide whether they are he, she, or they, and what their name should be. The theories about religion are vastly thought-provoking and truly shine through the book. There's a lot to consider after reading this book, including about structure, message interpretation, foundation, and the endpoint. The characters are beautifully crafted, flaws and all. I wish there was time to delve even deeper into the many intriguing people we meet in this book. The idea of tattoo magic was really unique also. What left me wanting more: I would have liked a bit more crafting about the religion. We get the basics, and it is enough, but I felt like I still had a lot of questions. Additionally, there were things about the world that would come up seemingly out of the blue, and I would have liked to understand them better. On the flip side, this is already a lengthy book, so I am not sure if there was space. The story does seem a bit slow in the early-middle, but the pace really picks up later. Final verdict: Dark but enchanting, this is a YA fantasy that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. Highly recommend for fans of THE CHEMICAL GARDEN series, THE LONE CITY series, and/or SOMETHING DARK AND HOLY series. Please note that I received an ARC. All opinions are my own.