Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1) by Kim Smejkal
Ink in the Blood and its gorgeous cover drew me in, but I definitely stayed for the amazingly lush writing, three-dimensional characters, and the fantastic world Smejkal created.
About the Book
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | Release Date: February 11, 2020 | Pages: 448
Genre: YA, Fantasy | Format: Paperback | Source: Publisher via FFBC
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.
This post uses affiliate links provided by the blog tour. Click here for more info.
I am so excited to bring you my (late) review for Ink in the Blood as part of the blog tour! But good things come to those who wait!
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. 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.
“You two are bright stars in the Rabble Mob, and the Rabble Mob is family.”
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.
“You see, a plague doctor isn’t much of a doctor at all. We’re the ones left behind after all the real doctors leave. We tally the dead. We hold hands and stand sentry at bedsides. When the rest of the world flees, we become the unfortunate mask of any remaining humanity.”
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.
“Ink equals manipulation. Ink equals bondage. Ink equals tyranny.”
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.
“The more alone you are, the less you have to lose.”
Content warnings: (I didn’t take notes while reading, I am so sorry) mental abuse, violence
Representation: ace rep, f/f rep, m/m rep, nb/m rep, nonbinary rep, pansexual rep, trans rep
ARC provided by the publisher – HMH Books for Young Readers – and FFBC in exchange for my honest review as part of the blog tour. This does not affect the content of my review. Quotations are from an uncorrected proof and subject to change upon final publication.
About the Author
Kim Smejkal lives with her family on muse-satiating Vancouver Island, 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. Her debut novel, INK IN THE BLOOD, will release from HMH in early 2020, with a sequel to follow in 2021. She is represented by Daniel Lazar of Writers House.
Check Out the Rest of the Tour!
➡️ Click here to view the full schedule!
The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post
@onemused – Review
L.M. Durand – Review
Jinxed Reviews – Review + Favourite Quotes
Books Over Everything – Review
A Court of Coffee and Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Bookish Dream – Review
Reads and Thoughs – Review
Here’s to Happy Endings – Review
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Tattoo Magic
Not Just Fiction – Review + Favourite Quotes
Story-eyed Reviews – Review
Portrait of a Book – Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist
Starlight Reads – Review + Favourite Quotes
PopTheButterfly Reads – Review
Booked J – Review + Favourite Quotes
colbywilkens – Review
Reader Voracious – Review
Bargain and Books – Review
Have you read Ink in the Blood yet? Do you have any tattoos?
Let’s chat in the comments!