Author: Kim Smejkal
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Released: February 11th, 2020
Warnings: Involuntary tattoos, eye loss, religious extremism, abuse
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 it’s 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).