ARC Review: Curse of the Divine by Kim Smejkal
Ink in the Blood was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and I was so excited to dive back into this vivid world for this duology’s finale. Let me tell you: this is a satisfying expansion of the world and resolution to the world Smejkal crafted… but the pain for our characters has just begun.
About Curse of the Divine
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | Release Date: February 9, 2021 | Pages: 448
Genre: Young Adult, Dark Fantasy | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher*
Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she discovers that Diavala is still very much alive and threatening Griffin, the now-infamous plague doctor, Celia is desperate not to lose another person she loves to the deity’s wrath.
The key to destroying Diavala may lie with Halycon Ronnea, the only other person to have faced Diavala and survived. But Halcyon is dangerous and has secrets of his own, ones that involve the ink that Celia has come to hate. Forced to choose between the ink and Diavala, Celia will do whatever it takes to save Griffin—even if it means making a deal with the devil himself.
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child murder, drowning, gore and light body horror, loss of a loved one, torture, trauma, violence
ace rep, f/f rep, m/m rep, nb/m rep, nonbinary rep, pansexual rep, trans rep
My Review of Curse of the Divine
While my review is spoiler-free for Curse of the Divine, there may be spoilers for the first book in the duology Ink in the Blood.
This duology has one of the most immersive and developed fantasy worlds into which I’ve immersed myself. I found myself on the edge of my seat while reading, the tension of the narrative just crept into my own veins and I needed these characters to be okay.
“Time stretched out like taffy, slowing everything down painfully. When was the last time they’d touched? So close all the time, traveling together, yet such a chasm between them.”
The writing is evocative and full of tension, pairing with Celia’s emotions and anxious thoughts. Curse of the Divine picks up right after the events at the end of the first book and is as much about dealing with the events from Ink in the Blood as it is about finishing what she started and get rid of Diavala once and for all.
“‘Dreams are nice,’ he whispered to her. ‘When you’re inside one, there’s never any doubt that it’s real.'”
Magical and full of illusions, this book toes the line between reality and fantasy. I adored the mysteries of Wisteria and learning more about the ink’s origins and true powers.
While Ink in the Blood could have been a standalone with a fairytale “the Evil was defeated after the sacrifice” ending, but I appreciate how this installment digs deeper and examines the affects of religion meeting its end has on both society and survivors who knew the truth.
“Sometimes surviving is the hardest thing you can do.”
Celia has gone through a lot and Curse of the Divine brings more challenges while she’s handling with loss and the trauma from Ink in the Blood. The road is paved with good intentions; Celia’s path pushes and challenges her, and I appreciated her character growth the most. Her resilience and unwavering care for others warms my heart.
“But sometimes you have to go backwards in order to move forward, her wise bees said. And remember, it’s not the ink you hate, it was how Diavala used it.”
There’s an undercurrent of wrongness and sadness that mirrors the predicaments at the center of this finale. As a result, I missed much of the character moments and banter from the first book. It served its purpose for the story and character development (and its done well!), but it was a bummer at times. Good thing there is a giant bee named Xinto who shows up to be simply adorable and provide some levity.
I feel compelled to inform you that there’s a giant bee in CURSE OF THE DIVINE named Xinto and he’s adorable. 🐝— Kal is the Reader Voracious (@kalventure) February 19, 2021
“With a squeak, a decidedly non-beeish noise, Xinto flew off, hurt, to pout on the cold fireplace mantel, staring at her accusingly.”
Curse of the Divine is a much darker book and there are some incredibly spooky moments behind a certain door which were a delight to my horror-loving heart. Thankfully in addition to Xinto and a few new mysterious characters, we also have interlude chapters in Griffin’s perspective… which I adored.
Overall, the Ink in the Blood duology is an excellently plotted and intensely atmospheric dark fantasy that will steal your heart. I loved Celia so much and you can’t help but root for her. Definitely recommended!
* I have since purchased a final copy for my personal collection.
Have you read Curse of the Divine yet, or do you plan to?
Let’s go on another adventure together!