Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood Duology, #1)

by Kim Smejkal

3.75 of 5 stars 4 ratings • 3 reviews • 25 shelved
Book cover for Ink in the Blood

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Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood Duology, #1)

by Kim Smejkal

3.75 of 5 stars 4 ratings • 3 reviews • 25 shelved
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 realise 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.
  • ISBN13 9780358348931
  • Publish Date 1 April 2021 (first published 11 February 2020)
  • Publish Status Unknown
  • Publish Country US
  • Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Imprint HMH Books for Young Readers
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 464
  • Language English

Reviews

Avatar for quirkycat

Quirky Cat 4 of 5 stars

Kim Smejkal's debut novel, Ink in the Blood, is a bold and brilliant fantasy novel, one I won't be forgetting anytime soon. It's a novel that I might otherwise have missed, if not for being an option for BOTM (Book of the Month).

Celia Sand and Anya Burtoni are best friends. They're also inklings – meaning that they work (not entirely willingly) for the main/only religion of Profeta. They create tattoos full of messages, and under orders send them off to those needing to receive them.

It's a practice that neither of them are fond of, as they know the truth about those messages – and the cost that could come with them. They don't believe that they are truly coming from the Divine, and thus they won't hesitate if they are given the opportunity to escape from this life.

“Nearly everyone boasted a tattoo; ink made nonbelievers believe, turned half believers into fervent ones. Magic staining their skin meant that the Divine cared for them.”

Ink in the Blood is a rich and captivating world. It took a unique spin on the concept of magic and tattoos, and created something entirely different from that core. I think that is one of the many reasons why I found myself enjoying is so much.

A fact which surprised me a little bit, as I don't normally adore novels that are so full of religion and stigma. Yet there's something to Celia and Anya's struggles and determination here, and it made it impossible to look away from.

I think it's at least partially the fact that the story, at its core, felt similar to the Night Circus. That's not to say that they are the same – other than a few circus/carnival themes, they actually don't have much in common. But still, that vibe is there.

Combine those circus elements with magic, tattoos, love, friendship, and an overwhelming and overly powerful religious sect, and you've got something to write home about here! I adored most, if not all, of these elements.

Even while parts made my heart race – like that terrifying yet impressive conclusion. That also worked well to leave a mark (pun intended) on my mind. It's really no wonder that I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel – Curse of the Divine (which is expected to release early 2021).

Check out more reviews over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks

Avatar for kalventure

kalventure 5 of 5 stars
I'm hosting a giveaway of my ARC copy on Twitter (I've since purchased a finished copy & want to spread the love!)
I first fell in love with this book when I saw the cover reveal last year, and friends, let me tell you that the insides of this dark fantasy debut from Kim Smejkal most certainly match!

Smekjal's writing is lush and beautiful with beautiful descriptions, but is also fast-paced and engaging. We jump straight into the thick of the story, and I love the way that we are introduced to the world. 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. I found the first section interesting and full of important groundwork, but everything clicked 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 true believers, 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.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. Quotations are taken from an unfinished proof and are subject to change upon final publication.
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Avatar for adecker

Austine (NovelKnight) 3 of 5 stars
Check out the original review and more on NovelKnight!

This book was provided by the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ink in the Blood almost had me. It was so close. But, alas, no dice.

To be clear, I liked this book. I might even pick up the sequel when it comes out but... I wasn't 100% sold. In the early chapters, I lost interest almost immediately despite finding the tattoo magic incredibly interesting. The book just didn't have that hook. But it wasn't enough to make me DNF as my interest grew as the plot moved into what I guess would be the inciting incident of this particular story.

Before dropping off again.

I loved the tattoo magic system. That's what drew me to the book in the first place and kept me on the line even when I lost interest in the plot. And I think if I had connected with the characters, I could have really loved Ink in the Blood despite the plot. The lyrical style of the writing and the world made me think of Erin Morgenstern's books a bit but where I couldn't help but be intrigued by those books' characters, I wasn't feeling the same connection here. The only thing I really found myself enjoying was the bond of friendship between Celia and Anya, which I thought was really well done.

By the time I got to the 70% mark, I was intrigued again but the fact that it took so long meant I wasn't invested enough to appreciate the twists thrown in the last quarter. I just don't really know how to feel about this book. I think if I went back and re-read it at a later date I might enjoy it more because I definitely think part of the problem was that I just wasn't in the mood for this story. And I will definitely consider picking up the sequel. So I'm going to say this was a combination of issues and perhaps come back to it again.

I think Ink in the Blood is perfect for readers seeking a new sort of magic in their YA fantasies so if that's you, definitely check this one out!

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