ARC Review | Ink in the Blood

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Ink in the Blood

Author: Kim Smejkal

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

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 and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Ink in the Blood caught my eye on NetGalley because of the cover and the concept of magic tattoos. What I got as I started reading was a story about religion and a theater troupe! Celia and Anya are “inklings” – unfortunately every time I read the word “inkling” it reminded me of the video game Splatoon 2. 😂🤦🏻‍♀️ Maybe that’s why my reading experience of this book felt strange. Anyway, inklings have the gift of creating tattoos for people through their religion Profeta. But Celia and Anya, realize as they grow older they are trapped in servitude in their roles as inklings and want to escape. They find a way to join the Rabble Mob, a performance troupe and they think they have escaped Profeta but they learn in a sinister way, they haven’t left it behind.

  • Diversity abounds in this book, there is queer romance everywhere and I like that it’s a normal part of this dark fantasy world. It isn’t questioned or explained, it just IS.
  • The world building is interesting – the religion Profeta has these inklings conjuring up tattoos to guide the masses, but through Celia and Anya’s memories of their childhood, they are tortured a lot by their superiors. It was almost like a mixture of Catholicism and Hinduism (with the statue of the Divine and Diavala peeking out beneath and 6 eyes). There is an order to Profeta with the mistico being the holiest and the inklings being the lowest level on the pyramid. Celia and Anya escape and join a theater troupe called the Rabble Mob. The setting reminded me of Venice with the masks, gondolas and houses on stilts.
  • I enjoyed Celia and Anya’s relationship, they had each other’s back to the surprising and bittersweet end. They balanced each other out and went through so much together from their childhood as inklings to running away and becoming part of the theater troupe.
  • Celia and Griffin’s relationship was what kept me interested in this book because there was amazing tension between them. Now this is a slow burn…there is a lot of distrust, and hiding behind masks and innuendos. But they were my favorite part of the book.
  • There was something about the story that just kept me unengaged. I felt like the explanation of the religion and magic in the beginning was confusing to me. Maybe my reality wasn’t suspended enough for me to be immersed in this world of the Divine and Diavala the trickster god.
  • Because the story didn’t engage me right away, it took me awhile to get into this story. I put this aside for two months! I picked it up again because I know it’s being published soon. But I did find the second half of the book moved much faster t
  • The tattoo magic wasn’t what I expected. I thought it was kind of weak because it was like painting a tattoo on a body part and transferring it through magic. I guess I wanted more blood and needles involved. 😅 The tattoos were the only magic in the book.
  • Triggers: physical abuse, torture

This was an okay read for me. I think the world building with the religious aspects and the tattoos was interesting but something was missing for me in the story. My favorite parts were between Celia and Griffin who brought the tension and intensity that stood out in this book. I think many people who enjoyed books like Caraval will enjoy Ink in the Blood.

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