Ink Girls

Ink Girls
Age Range
Release Date
November 21, 2023
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Eleven-year-old Cinzia is a printer’s apprentice. She adores Mestra Aronne for taking her in—most guilds don’t have room for apprentices with a crippled leg—and she loves life in the raggedy workshop that smells of paper and printing, where secrets and stories are always circulating. So when Mestra Aronne is imprisoned for publishing accusations against the ruling family, Cinzia will do anything to prove that Mestra Aronne only told the truth.

Elena is the exact same age as Cinzia, but she’s forced to keep to her rooms and garden. To protect her, according to her mother. To protect the city, according to her uncle. Because Elena is not the charming, powerful noble her family wants her to be. According to them, she doesn’t communicate well. She’s too gullible and literal and struggles to understand other people.

After unexpectedly meeting face-to-face, the girls follow a trail of clues through their golden city, drawing supporters and learning more about their home and each other than they ever could have imagined. If one person—no matter how young—can change the course of history, just imagine what a whole flock of them could do.

Bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp and debut illustrator Sylvia Bi have crafted an indelible, vibrant story about finding and using your voice, perfect for fans of Lightfall, Tidesong, and The Prince and the Dressmaker.

Editor review

1 review
Alternate history with strong feminist message
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Cinzina lives in an alternate version of Renaissance Italy in a city called Siannerra, where she has been adopted by Mestra Aronne, a printer, and works as her apprentice. Aronne is dedicated to publishing the truth, even at her own peril. When she discovers that the Lord Magistrate is extorting money from people, and has proof of this, she publishes an avissi (pamphlet) about this. Since the Lord Magistrate is in charge of the city council and is the brother of the Principessa, it doesn't take long before Aronne is arrested, the shop is trashed, and Arrone is imprisoned. Cinzina manages to escape, and comes across Alena, the contessina and Principessa's daughter. There are rumors around town that Alena is odd and unfit for rule, but she is just a quiet girl who likes to read and needs a friend. She decides to help Cinzina escape after hearing her story, and the two set out across the town to find people who might have clues to help get Aronne free. This proves difficult and dangerous, but they are aided by people like Carlotta, whose father is an unnamed dignitary, and who is now a pirate because life in the upper crust palace society was boring. There are many guilds in the town, and they help protect their members, but the citizens who aren't in guilds are suffering due to the actions of the council and Principessa. Will Cinzina and her associates be able to bring attention to the fraud running rampant in the town and convince the Principessa to stand up to her brother and do what's right?

Good Points
This has a strong feminist message, and a lot of good themes of speaking up for what is right and not being silenced. There's a lot of inclusion in the artwork, and a note about the fact that Italy in the 1600s had a somewhat diverse population, including people of color and those with a variety of abilities. Cinzina is depicted with a cane. Alena's running away from the palace and getting a view of the real world is interesting, and having her inspire her mother to change is depicted in a realistic fashion; it doesn't happen right away and isn't easy. I loved the support community and the agency that characters like Carlotta seize for themselves. Reading this made me sad that someone lost my copy of Donna Jo Napoli's 2001 Daughter of Venice that had a similar feel.

This is one of those odd historical books that almost seem like fantasy because they are set in a world that never existed. While I thought the matriarchal Siannerra was fantastic, younger readers might be cofused as to whether or not this is historical fiction based on a real world. Notes at the back help.

I don't have much in the way of historical fiction graphic novels, so would love to see more that depict history in a more realistic way. This reminds me a bit of Larson's Compass Point South or Walsh's Red Scare, both of which have an alternate historical setting. This was a good story about empowerment of the individual and is a great choice for readers who are interested in social activism and letting their voices be heard.
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