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.
Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood Duology #1)Featured
However, as Celia has learned over the last ten years, the messages are not always good, and frequently could be interpreted in many ways, though the person will see one. The ten years in which she has served have been tortuous, and her body bears the physical scars of this abuse. Celia wants out, and she is determined to take Anya, for whom friend is too small a word to describe. However, getting out is nearly impossible.
A way out presents itself through a Mob, a group of performers like a theatre troup or circus. Mobs have their own rules and can do as they please, but it is very hard to become a member- they rarely accept outsiders. They travel around to different countries and put on shows, often comedies, and some people seem to exist only in costume, never resuming their birth persona.
After an audition, Celia and Anya join the Rabble Mob, a group that soon becomes family. They bring a whole host of interesting characters and experiences, but their time in the Rabble Mob is tainted by the religion that follows them and threatens the people for whom they have come to care so deeply.
What I loved: The representation among the characters is amazing, and I love this idea of a society where each person is Kid until they are old enough to decide whether they are he, she, or they, and what their name should be. The theories about religion are vastly thought-provoking and truly shine through the book. There's a lot to consider after reading this book, including about structure, message interpretation, foundation, and the endpoint.
The characters are beautifully crafted, flaws and all. I wish there was time to delve even deeper into the many intriguing people we meet in this book. The idea of tattoo magic was really unique also.
What left me wanting more: I would have liked a bit more crafting about the religion. We get the basics, and it is enough, but I felt like I still had a lot of questions. Additionally, there were things about the world that would come up seemingly out of the blue, and I would have liked to understand them better. On the flip side, this is already a lengthy book, so I am not sure if there was space. The story does seem a bit slow in the early-middle, but the pace really picks up later.
Final verdict: Dark but enchanting, this is a YA fantasy that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. Highly recommend for fans of THE CHEMICAL GARDEN series, THE LONE CITY series, and/or SOMETHING DARK AND HOLY series.