Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1) by Kim Smejkal

(Last Updated On: February 20, 2020)

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

Ink in the Blood cover artworkA 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.

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My Review

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 haveI’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.

View this post on Instagram

🎁 HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO INK IN THE BLOOD!!! 🎁 . Do you have any tattoos? I have five and each tell a story. Well, except for that one on my back! . I was drawn to INK IN THE BLOOD because the magic system involves tattoos… and I haven’t been disappointed. Due to health issues, I haven’t been able to finish the book yet, but it’s my hospital waiting room material this afternoon. And I’ve loved what I’ve read so far! . . 🎉 Instagram exclusive giveaway 🎉 We are giving away 1 copy of INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal and temporary tattoos (US Only). The giveaway will start on FEBRUARY 5th 2020 and will finish on FEBRUARY 19th 2020 (00:00 GMT+1). ​ . 🎉 Entries for the giveaway: 🎉 ▪︎Follow @theffbc & @whatmakespatri ▪︎Follow the author @kimsmejkal ▪︎Follow the publishing house @hmhteen ▪︎Follow me @kal_ventures ▪︎Leave a comment about your tattoos… or what you’d get done if you got one! Be sure to make it clear that you’re entering the giveaway tag @theffbc in your comment! . 🎉 Extra entries: 🎉 ▪︎Tag a friend (each friend will be an extra entry). ▪︎Share on your stories about the giveaway (remember to tag me @whatmakespatri and @theffbc) ▪︎Follow @michellesulk & @artsyreadergirl . ▪︎Follow any other FFBC team member participating in the tour (let us know on the comment section who did you follow). Check everyone's Instagram handles below: @onemused @l.m.durand @theelizaaguilar @books_over_everything @novelknight @acourtofcoffeeandbooksblog @a_bookish_dream @karlaamae @kagunderman @thereadingcornerforall @not.just.fiction @storyeyedreview @bookcrushin @book.lyst @the.magicalpages @_the_indian_girl @booking_belle @portraitofabook @sometimesleelynnreads @starlight.reads @popthebutterfly @foalsfictionandfiligree @jessicabeckett @colbywilkens @kal_ventures

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About the Author

Kim Smejkal's author photoKim 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.

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Check Out the Rest of the Tour!

➡️ Click here to view the full schedule!
Ink in the Blood tour banner

February 5th

February 6th

Write, Read, Repeat – Interview
@onemused – Review
L.M. Durand – Review
Jinxed Reviews – Review + Favourite Quotes
Books Over Everything – Review

February 7th

NovelKnight – Guest Post
A Court of Coffee and Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Bookish Dream – Review
Reads and Thoughs – Review

February 8th

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Interview
Here’s to Happy Endings – Review
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Tattoo Magic
Not Just Fiction – Review + Favourite Quotes
Story-eyed Reviews – Review

February 9th

BookCrushin – Guest Post
The Book Lyst – Review
The Magical Pages – Review
Sincerely your books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Sohinee Reads & Reviews – Review

February 10th

Belle’s Archive – Review + Favourite Quotes
Portrait of a Book – Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist
Starlight Reads – Review + Favourite Quotes
PopTheButterfly Reads – Review

February 11th

Foals, Fiction & Filigree – Review + Favourite Quotes
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!


  1. Brooklynne Michelle

    February 20, 2020 at 3:15 PM

    You’ve convinced me to pick up this book, it had slipped my mind! Thanks for the great review!

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:09 AM

      YAY this is just the kind of comment that I like to see!!! I hope you enjoy(ed?) the book as much as I did!

  2. Sophie @ Me and Ink

    February 21, 2020 at 4:10 AM

    Ah… This was one of my most anticipated reads so reading your review made me so happy. You can tell how passionate you are and it has made me even more excited to get to this. The world sounds amazing alongside good writing and well developed character. It sounds wonderful!! Thank you for this review and I’m so happy you loved this book.
    I don’t have any tattoos but I wouldn’t say no to one but I would be nervous about getting it. haha!!
    Wonderful review ❤

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:13 AM

      Thank you so much, Sophie! I was SO EXCITED for this book and am really glad that it exceeded my expectations. I know what you mean about tattoo nerves, they aren’t for everyone!

      I hope you enjoy(ed?) the book when you pick it up!

  3. Fanna

    February 21, 2020 at 4:36 AM

    Oh, I’ve been eyeing this one and all the representations you mentioned have caught my attention all the more! I remember seeing your reading updates for this one and how much you liked it so I was super excited to see this as an audiobook on Scribd. Guess I’ll be listening to this soon <3 Loved reading the review!

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:14 AM

      All the rep is so wonderful, I loved reading such an inclusive story! I hope that you enjoy this one, and please let me know how the audiobook is!

  4. Mere

    February 21, 2020 at 6:59 AM

    Yep. I keep seeing this book and I am still interested in reading it!!

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:16 AM

      I hope that you do read it, it’s so lovely!!!

  5. Jo

    February 21, 2020 at 9:51 PM

    God, this book was everything I had wanted.

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:19 AM

      ME TOO!!! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do, Jo!

  6. Haley

    February 25, 2020 at 2:18 AM

    I remember you were the one who first brought this book to my attention, and let’s face it, that cover is gorgeous and worthy of a cover buy, but I’m glad I at least waited to read your review and know more about it…now…to go add it to my tbr. DANG IT KAL.

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:36 AM

      YUP the cover is definitely why I wanted to read this one, and I was so pleased because it hit all the right marks for me! MUAHAHAHA

  7. Lauren

    February 25, 2020 at 4:20 PM

    sign me the hec k up!! (wait i have this on netgalley) please enocourage me to read this asap!!! 🙂

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:41 AM

      HAVE YOU READ IT YET!?!?!?!?!?!?

  8. AhanaRao

    February 25, 2020 at 6:51 PM

    Oooof! I’ve seen this cover around and believe me I utterly feel what you meant when you said you fell in love with the cover. I’m really glad you enjoyed this book Kal. I loved the themes though I may not have understood everything in the blurb because I needed world-building to place it; but whatever I did understand I liked. I love the idea of each character having a tenor and I’m really intrigued by the whole setting! Lovely review 🥰

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:45 AM

      Thank you so much for your comment, Ahana! I do think that the worldbuilding will help situate everything going on in this one because the religious aspects are a driver for everything. The tenors are so cool though!

  9. Sabrina

    February 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM

    I’ve been so excited for this book ever since I heard about it a month or so ago (I didn’t see the cover reveal last year like you did!), so I am very glad to hear you enjoyed it! I love how you’ve interspersed quotes throughout your review, it’s got me even more interested (if that was possible). Glad you mentioned that it could take a little while to totally become invested too, I will remember that.

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 11:28 AM

      Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did when you read it! Just remember that if the religious stuff isn’t gripping you, it’s necessary worldbuilding and the tone shifts around 140 pages in!

  10. Meaghan

    February 28, 2020 at 8:41 PM

    Look, Kal, I was already dying to read this, and now I need to get on my hands and knees and BEG my library to get this on the shelves soon! It sounds so good, and reading that rep list has me all full of warm fuzzies. I love reading your reviews, too, because then I know I’m probably in for a damn good book. ❤️

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 11:32 AM

      Meghan, thanks so much for this lovely comment!!! I hope your library gets it for you as it is such an enjoyable read, and I am a big supporter of diverse titles getting into library circulation.

  11. February Wrap-Up | My Last Wrap Up and Women’s History Month Readathon – Me and Ink

    February 29, 2020 at 5:04 AM

    […] @ Reader Voracious wrote a review for one of my anticipated releases, Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal and I loved hearing it. It made me very excited. Check it […]

  12. Krisha

    February 29, 2020 at 11:38 PM

    You have definitely convinced me to read this book! I was already excited and now even more ! Great review Kal 💛💛

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 11:35 AM

      MY JOB HERE IS DONE! *ElmoFire.gif* I hope you enjoy it, Krisha!!!

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