Ink in the Blood

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

I ended this book. I really struggled. I may pick it up again but I was so confused with the world building.
Was this review helpful?
This book just wasn't my cup of tea and that disappointed me! When I heard the comparisons to Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake, I knew I would have to try it. The tattoo magic really intrigued me and I wanted to know more about this world.

Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me. I wasn't drawn in to the story at all. I was confused while reading it and didn't really know the point of the book too well. I felt like it got muddled once the theater troupe came in and I was more interested in the beginning of the story and lost interest as it went on. 

I thought the world building was good, though. I give anyone credit who can create an entire magic system and make that make sense. This definitely had revolution vibes and that was something familiar to other books that I've read. I think the cover is also very gorgeous and totally goes with the theme of the story. It definitely is a dark fantasy and I liked that a lot about it. I enjoyed and appreciated the queer rep, as always!
Was this review helpful?
I LOVE this book!!! It's refreshingly weird, atmospheric, the main character is a delight and the lore surrounding it was fascinating. I love the worldbuilding and officially want to be part of the Rabble Mob.

I have a feeling because of its unapologetic inclusion of LGBTQA+ and celebration of it, this could be met by resistance from Certain Librarians, but this is definitely a book I feel should be embraced rather than feared for being different. Go into this with an open heart and mind and you might just enjoy yourself ;-)
Was this review helpful?
This book has a fascinating premise, with unique details and characters. The prose is poetic and intricate, with leaps forward and back in time and a constantly shifting point of view that will force readers to pay close attention and fully engage with the story. The non binary gender and sexuality of the world was a refreshing change. The whole book had a kind of fluidity to it. It reads almost like a dream. There's no solid footing. No linear thread between one line of dialogue and another. I wondered, perhaps, if the author intended the reader to be as unsettled and uncertain as the characters within. I think teen readers will enjoy the themes around the power of theatre and art, the fight for free will, and the many layered iterations of love, friendship, and family.
Was this review helpful?
Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two friends, Celia and Anya Burtoni, are inklings who using magic in the form of enchanted tattoos. They are able to interpret the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. However, they are captives of a religious cult and make their escape with a traveling theatre trope.

Fantastic world building and a unique premise. 

Perfect for fans of Caraval, The Night Circus, and Wicked Saints.
Was this review helpful?
Celia and Anya are Inklings, devout worshipers of Diavala. Their gift with the ink allows them to impart wisdom from the Divine through tattoos that they ink onto their own skin and then send to the recipients. But Celia and Anya are questioning the Divine's will and want out. With the help of a friend, they escape into a troupe of traveling performers. Their act, the Devil in the Bell Jar, causes people to question right and wrong and is highly popular with audiences. But maybe it is too popular.

This book gave me darker Daughter of the Burning City vibes. The characters were interesting. The magic system was a little tricky to figure out at the beginning but wasn't overall too complex to become off putting. I'm not sure if this is a perfect fit, as fantasy can be hit or miss, but it is a standalone which is nice for YA fantasy. Overall, I really enjoyed this book!
Was this review helpful?
A sprawling, ambitious fantasy with intricate worldbuilding, vivid atmosphere, and a cast of characters you want to run off and join the revelry with.
Was this review helpful?
INK IN THE BLOOD is the debut novel of Kim Smejkal. I was extremely excited to read this story because it advertised my three favorite things: tattoos, magic, and religion. However, it wasn't what I expected. I appreciated what the author was trying to do and I love the queer representation. It is so rare to read about bisexual characters and as a bi woman, I appreciate the author for that. 

Though it was a quick read, I really had to sit and think about this story for a while.

I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. The book contained some heavy issues and I saw what the author was trying to do, but I don't believe it was translated effectively for me. I appreciated the worldbuilding and the magic system, but the writing didn't click with me for some reason.

However, I would love to see where she takes this story next. I will always be emotionally invested in books with queer characters as the leads.
Was this review helpful?
Wow-ee! Was that ever a ride of a book! I finished it yesterday and I still don't know who to trust. I'm going to take that as a very good sign.

Let's start with the obvious, shall we? The queer representation is through the roof in this book. For instance, the main character, Celia, is bisexual. Throughout the story we meet several people who are gay, lesbian, straight, or prefer he, she or they as their pronoun. I struggle a little and get confused with the 'they' pronouns, just because my brain is still hardwired to think of it as more than one person, but I'm working on that. Further to all of that, every individual in this world possess a tenor, which is a unique and colourful aura that essentially displays your gender. While the representation is big, it is not the focal point of the plot at all.

The story itself is fascinating. Almost immediately I got a dark Caraval vibe, but from the point of view of a performer, not a spectator. Heck, even The Night Circus would be an apt descriptor, minus the delightful whimsy. The Rabble Mob was an interesting group to tag along with, and it certainly kept that dark vibe going. The Plague Doctor in particular; wasn't quite sure what to do with him but heavens did I love him. 

What I really loved was the tattoo magic! It stems from religious lore, and I found the whole premise to be so neat! Celia and her friend Anya are Inklings, and they were chosen by the Divine to send messages to people via the ink. Essentially they tattoo themselves with an ambiguous visual message of warning or advice, and when they 'let it go' it appears on the recipient's skin! And the way Celia and Anya use that ability between themselves throughout the book is just as entertaining. Likewise, the role the religion they served in the progression of this book was crazy! Major plot twists I did not expect!

This was a mighty big story, and much to my surprise, it required a lot of reflection afterward. There are themes of religion and morality that went quite deep. They threaded throughout the entire story and really drove certain plot points with a degree of openness and unpredictability, if that makes any sense at all. I was also especially thinking on where this story is going to go next. I'm guessing this must have originally been written as a standalone, because the ending was about 95% cut and dry and wrapped up with a bow. There are very few loose ends left so I will be very interested to see where this goes in the second book. 

The only reason why this book lost a star is because I really had to pay close attention, and I learned this too late. Especially at the end. It got somewhat confusing and I had some difficulty following what was going down with all the hullaballoo. I'm going to chalk much of it up to the version I read being an unfinished arc. I'm definitely buying a finished copy and if it improves my rating will definitely switch to five stars. Regardless, there are a lot of details coming at you, and no matter how small or big they are they need to be filed away for future.
Was this review helpful?
A rich world with an intricate magic system. I was fascinated by the idea of tattoos having a life of their own. A wonderful debut by Kim Smejkal.
Was this review helpful?
*Spoiler free, 3.5 stars*

This one was sort of on the back of my radar for awhile. I knew it had something to do with tattoos and ink, but nothing more than that. Though, when I finally took it upon myself to find out what it's about, it sounded like such a fascinating fantasy. A corrupt religion, messages spread through ink, best friends? It definitely sounded like a book I wanted to try.

I'm not quite sure how to explain my feelings about this book. I liked it. It was really enjoyable and it was a really solid book. Though, there were things I did not like. It's not that they fell flat, were underdeveloped, or anything that I can easily put into words. Some things just weren't fully there for me.

The writing is incredibly poetic. I wasn't expecting that, so I think that threw me off for a bit. Though, it was done very, very well. I enjoyed it a lot. Though, I felt like it wasn't consistent throughout. There were things that were talked about in metaphors, with writing that flowed however it wanted to. And then there were things that were talked about starkly and where exactly as they seemed. It threw me off a bit and there were times where it left me wanting. I just wanted to get to the heart of a certain character or just fully understand a piece of worldbuilding, but the writing kind of danced around it.

A lot of things in this book were done really well, but I felt like some things were kind of misplaced. There were twists that happened that I never would have guessed, but I wasn't shocked when they were revealed. I felt like some of them happened too early, or weren't placed the right way. There wasn't enough tension or mystery around them, so they sort of just felt like something happening. They were good plot points, but I personally would have liked if they were executed differently.

I also would have liked to see a lot more out a lot of the aspects in this book. I would have liked to see more of Celia and Anya's friendship. I actually thought it was going to have both Celia and Anya's POV, but it was actually just Celia. I would have liked to see their relationship with the Mob grow and blossom more. I would have liked to delve in the world in a slower, deeper way. I guess I think some things could have been fleshed out in a more intricate way. Some things just felt fast, and I ended up being confused here and there (though that could just be me). I didn't get a full emotional hold.

Despite these things, I didn't hate this book haha. I know I'm making it seem that way, but there were a lot of things I really liked!

Celia was absolutely fantastic. I loved her character. She's angry, she's determined, and she just wants to live freely. She calls brain her bees, which is honestly one of the best ways I've heard thinking described. She was a sharp wit and is just really brilliant. She also feels the same way about gender that I do! Which was really, really awesome to see. She swings between female and non-binary and she and they pronouns.

The queerness of this book was also something I really, really loved. There are casual non-binary characters. Casual use of they/them pronouns. It's done in a fantasy way, but with such care. There is also so many queer characters and relationships and it was honestly just really great to see.

The Mob was also really great. I loved their shows and I loved their family. They were so interesting.

I also really liked the ink and the tattoos. They were just as fascinating as the synopsis makes them seem. They're part of such a cruel world. A world where change needs to happen, but nobody sees that but the people its harming. And nobody wants to listen to the people its harming.

Overall, this was a really interesting book and I did enjoy reading it. Some things didn't quite work for me, but it was still good. The ending is very subtle in it's delivery, but that's what makes the punch it packs so effective. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next!
Was this review helpful?
OH. MY. AMAZING. Kim Smejkal has masterfully created complex, multi-layered characters, a hauntingly lovely setting, and a new and unique type of magic. Her writing is mesmerizing--the kind that completely pulls you out of reality and keeps you turning the page. INK IN THE BLOOD is light and dark, love and lust, life and death--all set within a Venician-esque backdrop where the shimmery veil of theater and illusion battles the iron fist of religion and law and you never quite know who's playing the tricks on who. Basically, this book is pure magic. It will not disappoint. I can't wait until book 2!
Was this review helpful?
Kim Smejkal has masterfully created complex, multi-layered characters, a hauntingly lovely setting, and a new and unique type of magic. Her writing is mesmerizing--the kind that completely pulls you out of reality and keeps you turning the page. INK IN THE BLOOD is light and dark, love and lust, life and death. This book is queer, and the magic system is unique. Which makes it stand out in our world of ever-revolving door of fantasy books. Thanks for a great one!
Was this review helpful?
Let me take you back in time with me. About two years ago there was this little contest I participated in, which I'm sure some of you know. (Clears throat) Pitch Wars?! Anyways, I didn't make it, but the Author Kim Smejkal did, if I recall correctly. Funny thing is we actually swapped our first two chapters to critique each other. Kim was way ahead of me in the game then, super busy with the competition, and sadly we didn't keep up. Her first two chapters, however, always stayed tucked away in the recesses of my mind.

So when I saw this title pop up, I couldn't help but hope to read her full book baby.

My initial thoughts on INK IN THE BLOOD... have you ever been to a Cirque Du Soleil? I've been to many and INK IN THE BLOOD is a spot on dark vision of what happens when theatrical members rebel against the religious hypocrisy in this fantastical land. Take the old gypsy caravans, mix a dash of cirque, tattoos, and then a dose of written tales twisted and re-imagined.

Smejkal has done a vast amount of world building. It takes careful attention to not overlook any details, 'cause this novel relies on you the reader maintaining an understanding of those inkling rules, Profeta deceptions. Especially with the characters. Now, even though it states it's dark, which it is, we are talking dark as in situational. There's not tons of blood shedding in INK IN THE BLOOD.  Some of course. Honestly, it's probably one of the cleanest reads I've had in dark fantasy.

INK IN THE BLOOD fits perfectly into the YA/teen category, and I think many will find the change from many high octane action novels to calculated mental, counter moving, plotting strikes a welcomed change.

Overall, I enjoyed INK IN THE BLOOD and rated it 4 out of 5 stars. I am a dark fantasy, gory, high action, love kind of girl, but I do love when a novel challenges me to slow down. Pay attention. Kim Smejkal's novel INK IN THE BLOOD has done just that.

I received an ARC of INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of the review.

Let’s be honest here. If it was great or sucked I have no problem writing it out. Want to check out my Book Cover Critique on Ink In The Blood? Then visit Aka The Mother Cover Lover.
Was this review helpful?
This is a book that demands a thoughtful, attentive read. I didn't want to rush through it because the details and world-building are so important and often exquisite, and the magic system (tied to the world's religion) is well thought-out and planned. There are several layers to the story: best friends escaping from an oppressive situation. Burgeoning discoveries of the world's mythologies. A strong female friendship transcending both time and tragedy.

Ink in the Blood is definitely on the darker side, with mature themes. It's not a book for readers on the very young side, but will be appreciated by those who admire a good deception with a classical feel, prefer a good amount of darkness in their not-quite-dystopia, and those who love the balance of magic and responsibility.

You can also find this review at
Was this review helpful?
This is an interesting concept.
It combines both fantasy and tattoos in a magical way and it's unique and cool. Unfortunately the plot is both weak and confusing and the characters aren't strong enough to hold your interest. It has its moments here and there and it is a quick read but it's just not enough to hold that spark. This is only part one of a series so I have faith and hopefully the next installment will be much better. I'm looking forward to it!
Was this review helpful?
This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I fell in love with this book right from the beginning. The concept and execution Kin Smejkal took with this book was very unique and different which made me like it more. I myself have never been a huge fan of tattoos but when these tattoos reveal a lie that has been told for generations and the teachings Anya and Celia have learned all their lives have all been lies and things were not exactly as they appear, the story got more shocking than the next. Because this book was so different focusing on a whole alternate concept, our teen book club is bound to sure love this.

We will consider adding this title to our YFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
A very interesting concept but a hard read. The writing doesn't flow well and the wording is awkward. I think it has a lot of potentials but needs some reworking.
Was this review helpful?
I  read a pre-published version, thanks to NetGalley.

If you like:

👼 /👹 good vs. evil
💪Strong female friendships
♟ games of strategy
🎭 Traveling theater
💕 slow burn romance

...then you'll love Ink in the Blood!

Kim Smejkal is a master world-builder. I was sucked in to the book and am looking forward to reading Book 2!
Was this review helpful?
This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. The world building did not paint a clear picture and the character development was lacking. I was so excited for this book but was disappointed it was not what I was hoping for. It reminded me a little of my feelings of Furyborn but I know many really enjoyed that book. So if you loved Furyborn then I say check this book out!
Was this review helpful?