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.
Dark fantasy. Tattoo magic. Rebelling against gods. Carnival atmosphere. Night Circus vibes. Yes please.
Characters: Here I am again gushing about found families. Who is surprised? Ceila and Anya are such a refreshing relationship. It is rare that the focus of the characters is friendship. Both of these girls were separated from their families and taken into a religious sanction due to their gift of tattoo magic. They became each other’s family and they were by far one of my favorite parts of this book. They are determined to change the ways of the corrupt religion that controls their country. They are a fierce team and nothing will stand in their way. I enjoyed the other characters as well, especially the theatre troupe they join, the Rabble Mob. The plague doctor was a very unique, dark, and interesting character.
I also have to mention the great representation throughout this book. The main character, Celia, is bisexual and as the story progresses we meet several people who are gay, lesbian, straight, or prefer he, she or they as their pronoun.
“Just like that, he’d hopped on board her ship without realizing that the deck was rotted.”
World: Okay the atmosphere is fantastic and the magic was so unique. The magic is based on religious lore. The divine sends messages to people through the inklings, which are individuals who are gifted with this type of tattoo magic. They essentially tattoo themselves and then it transfers to the people who the message is designated to. Celia and Anya are inklings but they are doubting the religion and start to see that the messages may be affecting people’s lives in negative ways. They start to slowly rebel in small ways until they all together escape the religion and join a theatre troupe. If you are a fan of Night Circus, Caraval, or traveling circus trope then you will definitely love this one.
General thoughts: I did find myself getting confused in the writing from time to time. Sometimes the perspective would shift in a way I wasn’t expecting. I also think I also just found some of the performances to be confusing in an almost too whimsical way. Still loved the overall story and plot.
The core of this story is dealing with free will and freedom. It’s about believing in yourself and not letting the ideals and values of others dictate your life. I loved this so much and I literally can not wait for the sequel…. I need to spend more time with these characters and this world.
HUGE THANK YOU TO HMH BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS AND FANTASTIC FLYING BOOK CLUB FOR HAVING ME AS PART OF THIS BLOG TOUR!!
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MEET 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.