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Reviewed by:
  • Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal
  • Fiona Hartley-Kroeger

Smejkal, Kim Ink in the Blood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020 [448p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-328-55705-6 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-358-16450-0 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12

Sixteen-year-old Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya, have spent their childhoods becoming inklings in the exacting service of the Profeta religion. They convey the will of the Divine by magically tattooing artistic representations of her orders on her followers—even when those orders are senseless or even cruel. Disillusioned with the brutal, capricious religion they serve, the pair escape by using their Inkling abilities to become the hot new act in the Rabble Mob, a traveling group of entertainers. The stakes of Celia and Anya's freedom rise sharply, however, when the disembodied Divine they served (but didn't really believe in) starts possessing people in a diabolical bid to punish the girls and use the troupe to spread her doctrine. Though the details of the Divine's cat-and-mouse game are hard to follow at times, Smejkal's debut creates an intriguing, enticing world. It's easy to understand Celia's love for her newfound theater family, which enfolds the girls in a quirky embrace and whose act sparkles with mystery, sensuality, and elements of commedia dell'arte. Also notable are "tenors," or auras that visually convey a person's gender identity and accompanying pronouns and support the story's thematic undercurrents of mutable, multiple, and masked identity. This is a vivid, imaginative confection with plenty of bite underneath the glitter that will appeal to fans of Holly Black's signature dark delights. The bittersweet ending (emphasis on the bitter) satisfies while leaving plenty of room for a sequel. [End Page 228]



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p. 228
Launched on MUSE
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