Cover Image: Ink in the Blood

Ink in the Blood

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Member Reviews

I was really rooting for this one.  I mean I have over 50 tattoos and so a book about them should have been right up my ally!!  Sadly though this one just didn't work out well.  I felt very confused as soon as the story started and that confusion just stuck throughout the title.  The plot felt like it was on a thin line and kind of non existent at all.  The gender spots in this one just felt forced and off and well I kind of wished they just wouldn't have been in there at all.  All in all it just lacked focus. 


Go Into This One Knowing: Gender Fluid, Magic, Confusing
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Actual rating: 4.5

THIS BOOK!!! This book slithers right between your ribcage and makes a little home there, unshakeable in how dark it is. Ink in the Blood has a lot to say and it says it all with so much grace and even more heart. 

Looking for found family? It has it in spades! One of the best found family relationship units I've ever seen--spanning from lifelong friends to a traveling troupe of misfits who love one another fearlessly. Characters you don't get to see often (because this cast is honestly huge) still make such an impact when they do appear and you come to care about every single one. How Smejkal juggles such a large ensemble is incredibly impressive, to the point that sometimes I didn't even want to hear from Celia anymore, I wanted to hear from Remy and Lilac and even Marco. 

Looking for queer rep? Well do I have a book for you. The rep in this book is both impressive in how vast it is and also so inspiring. The use of they pronouns, the subtle mentions of ex-girlfriends, the "my love" that comes out in the end both as a best friends (and maybe something more--this is heartbreaking BTW!) hits so hard in it's this is just the way of this world. We need so many more books that present queerness as the world, rather than it being something to overcome or something that makes the world peculiar or requires adjustment of some sort. These characters are allowed to just BE and I loved every second of it. 

Looking to have your heart ripped out and stomped on? Look no farther. This entire book is amazing, but the last 50-75 pages grab you by the neck, shake you violently, chew you up, and then spit you out. It is beautiful in its cruelty, and really brings home the motif "how lucky I am to have someone who makes saying goodbye so hard." Just GAHHHHHHH! And then when you think you can't take anymore, the last page slaps you across the face. 

Looking for a huge commentary on zealotry and blind faith? This book is for you. It addresses the idea of not questioning your beliefs in the most poignant and really visible (hello, tattoos!) way, and it forces you to decide for yourself why you believe the things you believe. It doesn't ask for proof, but it does ask for curiosity, and it makes you complicit under atrocities done in the name of faith. This book is incredibly meta and deep and the message will stay with me for an incredibly long time (forever maybe? Yeah, probably forever). 

Oh and if you read and struggle with your ship? Same, girl, same. Celia + Anya, Celia + Griffin, Celia + Dante, Celia + Vincent, Celia + Zuni. I DO NOT KNOW PLEASE DO NOT ASK ME TO CHOOSE. 

Just wow. This book is just wow. Can't wait for the next one. Inject it into my veins.
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This was more of a 3.5 star read for me but I will definitely be reading the sequel. Most of my dislike stems from the setting so that is not the books fault. I've found that the circus/carnival-y type of setting just isn't for me. The world building was great and the writing felt very smooth.
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I loved the concept of this book, and the overall story. I do believe there were some concepts that the author added that weren't hashed out, and led to be kinda insignificant? Like the auroras and some of the gender identities. I appreciate how open characters were, and maybe I read too many ads that focused on that, when it wasn't a major part of the book.  That said,  I can't wait for the second one, and I do love the originality of it all.
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Being the kind of person that I am, saving images of tattoos, watching tattoo competitions and drama shows on tv, I was pretty excited for this one! The magic system is literally centered on the idea that tattoos send divine messages and give direction to life choices.

Unfortunately, It was super-predictable, and lacked complexity. Though the style was really accessible (hello, yes I will keep reading from this author because of her writing). But it was so disappointing that despite a really interesting set up, everything was solved far too easily. I personally found the pacing to be on the slower side, it’s unfortunate that the author didn’t take more opportunity for character development rather than throwing in events that didn’t surmount to much. There are so many sub-plots that could have been pushed further.. Everything was too neat and tidy, and there were so many tropes. Some people enjoy tropes so heck if that's what you want then GET ON THIS.

The bones of this book though were really really interesting and if the book had been expanded, the boundaries pushed a little further, this book could have been absolutely amazing.
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love it, it was a fast read. The character where develope well and so fascinating. Great plot as well
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So I read so many reviews saying "if you like this you will love this" or. "Night Circus in the new!" 

DUDE so much better! It has everything you need from a good book. Plot twists and romance. Chemistry and tension you can cut with a knife. I seriously couldn't no, wouldn't put this book down! 

I was super apprehensive the it was over hyped and that with a kick ass cover like that this book would fall short. NOPE. IT WAS AWWEEESSSOOMMMEEE!

This book has all the feels. Its dark and twisty, very mysterious but not overpowering. The perfect amount of everything. AND THAT ENDING.

It was refreshing to have a protagonist I didn't have to work to love and connect with. Celia is everything. Complicated, funny, and she DEVELOPS. The character development is so fantastic in this book. I'm still shocked by how amazing both the world build and character development was in this book. 

Listen guys, I can gush for hours on this book. BUT instead of reading me yelling at you how amazing this book is, just try it! I definitely recommend this book! 

I received this book for free from Netgalley for read to review!
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This book was so fantastic! I enjoyed this world with the religion of Profeta, and how important it is to this story. Celia and Anya were amazing characters, and watching them go on this journey was just the best to read!

This world was pretty interesting, because if someone becomes an Inkling, has this ink put into their veins, if they do a tattoo, on themselves or a fellow Inkling, they can send it off to another person. And that's part of their religion, with the Divine, and Diavala. But Celia and Anya know the underbelly of the religion, but find that there's still more to learn. I just love it!

The way the crowd reacts to the Rabble Mob's performances-especially with Celia and Anya's new Devil in the Bell Jar act, well, it didn't quite make sense to me, but it's a part of their world, their storytelling. So that they got so engrossed in it, well, mob mentality is a thing!

That ending was just killer! I didn't know what to expect next, and their plan, not knowing what it was and watching it unfold, was so intense! And then it was over with a pretty quiet intense cliffhanger, I'm so excited and anxious for the sequel! 

Yeah, this book was fantastic, and I'm just salivating for the sequel!
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Ink in the Blood focuses on Celia Sand and Anya Burtoni, who have served the Profeta religion as "inklings" for a decade.  They can magically tattoo the Profeta faithful with images that offer divine guidance.  As the girls become disillusioned with the religion, believing there is no deity, only a mortal bureaucracy that seeks to subvert free will, they decide to flee. Joining a seditious traveling theater troop, the Rabble Mob, they use their abilities to create a performance where they pose as an angel and the devil and supposedly read minds.  They attract the attention of the Profeta Divine, a vengeful deity that actually exists. She hopes to expand her following by using their performances as propaganda and threatens their newfound theater friends if they don't cooperate.  The complex characters with a wide variety of gender identities and sexual orientations are sympathetically drawn. As the battle between good and evil plays out, readers will care deeply about the strong friendships and delicate romances that are threatened in this thought-provoking tale. The cliffhanger ending will leave them anxious for the sequel in this fantasy duology.
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WOW!! What a story. Kim Smejkal has succeeded in building a world that I want to read and read and read about.  With so many YA books recycling the same themes it was so refreshing to read a story that brought a fresh and engaging story about romance, faith, friendship, and more. Building a whole new world can't be easy for authors but Smejkal got it right! I loved the diversity and the strong female characters, Celia and Anya. 

Can't wait for the sequel.
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This was an utter joy to read. I thought the worldbuilding the author created was interesting unique and fresh. I am a sucker for theatrical or travelling tropes. I thought how the author incorporated aura in this case known as tenors to identify gender fluidity and that they are always changing. The romance authentic and if you have a thing for tension you are going to want to read Ink in the Blood immediately. 

Overall Ink in the Blood is a great addition to young adult fantasy with an atmospheric carnival undertones, If you  enjoyed Erin Morgenstern's Night Circus and Amanda Foodys Daughter of the Burning City you will love Ink in the Blood.
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Ink in the Blood almost had me. It was so close. But, alas, no dice.

To be clear, I liked this book. I might even pick up the sequel when it comes out but... I wasn't 100% sold. In the early chapters, I lost interest almost immediately despite finding the tattoo magic incredibly interesting. The book just didn't have that hook. But it wasn't enough to make me DNF as my interest grew as the plot moved into what I guess would be the inciting incident of this particular story.

Before dropping off again.

I loved the tattoo magic system. That's what drew me to the book in the first place and kept me on the line even when I lost interest in the plot. And I think if I had connected with the characters, I could have really loved Ink in the Blood despite the plot. The lyrical style of the writing and the world made me think of Erin Morgenstern's books a bit but where I couldn't help but be intrigued by those books' characters, I wasn't feeling the same connection here. The only thing I really found myself enjoying was the bond of friendship between Celia and Anya, which I thought was really well done.

By the time I got to the 70% mark, I was intrigued again but the fact that it took so long meant I wasn't invested enough to appreciate the twists thrown in the last quarter. I just don't really know how to feel about this book. I think if I went back and re-read it at a later date I might enjoy it more because I definitely think part of the problem was that I just wasn't in the mood for this story. And I will definitely consider picking up the sequel. So I'm going to say this was a combination of issues and perhaps come back to it again.

I think Ink in the Blood is perfect for readers seeking a new sort of magic in their YA fantasies so if that's you, definitely check this one out!
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4.5 stars

"Ah! You can speak truths. I was really beginning to worry it was a medical condition."

I absolutely loved how we're immediately introduced to the story, there's no staggering of any sort, we jump right into it. And Smejkal does that without compromising the world-building or the characters whatsoever. We see event after event unravelling and I really have to commend the author on building such a wonderful world where ink is revered and tattoos are regarded as blessings from the Divine. The plot was fast-paced in the beginning and slowed down just a bit only to throw a huge plot twist in your face.

I was actually a bit surprised at how quickly I got attached to the characters. Both Celia and Anya won over my heart in the first few chapters. They fiercely love each other and would do anything to protect themselves and their little theatre tribe. Speaking of the characters in the travelling theatre group, Vincent and the plague doctor were two of my favourites with Kitty Kay following close behind.
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Ink in the Blood is quite a ride. This dark fantasy novel is a unique and intriguing story that is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Melissa Albert.

This book combines magic, religion, gender fluidity and two strong (yet different) female characters sharing an amazing and deep friendship.

This story is beautifully written, though I had to read this book slower than usual because as a reader, to fully grasp the story, you need to take your time and enjoy the details. Once I slowed down, this story is simply amazing. The magic is simple, but unique in the way tattoos are used. 

The novel is also LGBT oriented with gender fluidity. This is the second book I read this month where the pronoun “they” is used to identify a neutral gender character. My brain is, fortunately, getting used to it even if I had to read it again to make sure the narrator was speaking to only one person. The main character, Celia, is bisexual.

Did I mention that the characters pick their own name? How cool is that!

Another part that I enjoyed was how spectacular and dark the story can be. Celia and Anya are forced to join a theater troupe to escape their life as Inklings where they early on discovered that the privilege hid a brutal way of life and a prison, all in the name of a deity.

The friendship between the two characters is beautiful. They go through a lot together and have each other’s back. The theater group is a very interesting group that brought colors to the story, especially the Plague Doctor. I loved him!

I can’t wait to read the second book. This book is a wonderful read and highly recommend.
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I struggled somewhat with this one. The concept was interesting. Smekjal has created a truly complex world here, inventing a religion that makes sense to the reader and creating sensible rules. Even the discovery of the truth behind their religion is more complex than you might expect. It's a story about the corruption of power and desperation both. I liked a lot of the elements in the book, toeing the subtle line between condemning corruption and recommending religion itself. My problems are mostly related to pacing. It felt very slow and very long.
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Okay so, this book was definitely a fun read! The characters are all quirky and unique. I remember them. I actually like and care about them. The characters are strong in this book! The magic system is also something I have never seen before. Tattoo magic? Hello, sign me up! 

The world building is also a strength of this book. The religion, the towns and cities, the atmosphere, it is all very tangible and believable that I found I could get sucked into the pages and appear right then and there in the middle of the story.

You have action, adventure, lies, mystery, a little dash of flirtatious romance and bam, you have an excellent book! The reason I am not giving it 5 stars is because it does take a little bit to set up. The beginning feels slow, despite the awesome information and set up you are getting. Still, this book is completely worth a read!


Thank you to NetGalley for the e-arc of this book!
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When a thin black line appears on your skin, your destiny becomes intertwined with the Divine. In Profeta, there is a higher calling to be an inkling who can use tattoo magic to transfer images, or symbols, to reflect the will of the Divine to citizens lest they all fall astray to the fallen ways of Diavala. While believers follow the temple of the Divine and the High Mistico - who holds the ear of the Divine - after years of service, inkling Celia Sand knows better than to place her faith in the Divine.


Although she might be deemed as a heretic and cruelly punished for her lack of belief, the reality of the temple's brutal ways to tattoo people in accordance to their own ambitions leaves Celia and her best friend, Anya Bartoni, with clear eyes beyond the temple's institution. At any chance, they seize the opportunity to rebel against the system they're forced to maintain whether that be an image open to different interpretations, an incomplete tattoo, or initials hidden in designs .....anything to take arms against the Divine's dominance over their lives until they can escape.


When the opportunity to leave Profeta presents itself in the form of the traveling theatrical troupe, the Rabble Mob of Minos, Celia and Anya must put on a performance like no other in order to claim a place among the theater family. What they end up creating is the ultimate way to free themselves: the Devil in the Bell Jar. 


Even though the Rabble Mob follows the style of a traditional Commedia Follia, Celia and Anya's act turns the foundation of their society sideways. Audiences begin to question what makes an angel or a devil and if the one wearing an angel's wings is in fact a devil in disguise while the bell jar traps the ugly truth of humanity. 


Just when life seems to settle with the traveling ways of the Rabble Mob, the Divine pays a visit to Celia. A far cry from her benevolent portrayal, the Divine is an angry being who does not take kindly to Celia's rebellion. However, there is a road to redemption by using the Devil in the Bell Jar - and the Rebel Mob - to elevate the name of the Divine. 


For Celia, family is everything and she'll stop at nothing, not even Diavala herself, to protect those she holds dear.


Prepare to set forth on the stage of Profeta and onto a colorful world where plague doctors hide themselves behind their mask, the Divine and Diavala dance hand in hand, and a young woman holds onto her steadfast spirit.


See what happens to the world when the true Devil in the Bell Jar is let loose.


In this work, author Kim Smejkal uses the ink in her blood to weave a story that makes your bones hum. Line by line, the pages of Ink in the Blood that paint Celia's world are shaded with vibrant imagination that pushes beyond the boundaries of the page's borders. For me, Ink in the Blood was a fantastic read that weaves the bonds of friendship with a red thread and raises the curtain of the theater's magic to create a memorable world that will leave you reeling for the sequel.
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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.

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.
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This pains me to say, but I DNF'd this baby pretty quickly.

I was in love with the idea of tattoo magic, and was hoping for some kickass characters and an insane world to fall into. But instead I was left having trouble keeping my eyes open. I found it a bit dull and a little difficult to follow that characters and what was being described. Maybe it's just me, but I just didn't get pulled in like I thought I would. I had to reread sentences over and over, but nothing would stick. Maybe I can revisit this at a different time and it will be better for me, but for now...no thanks.
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Ink in the Blood was kind off a fail for me. I liked the storyline but I just had a difficult time getting into it. I think it may be because of the writing style, not that it's bad, just something I'm not use to. I wanted to love this book as I am a big fan and tarts and magic, but it just felt a little jumbled and I had a hard time following along with things.
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