Monday, February 24, 2020

Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal {review}

Ink in the Blood
by Kim Smejkal
♦publisher: HMH Teen
♦release date: February 11th, 2020
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦hardcover, 411 pages
♦series: Ink in the Blood, book 1
♦source: ARC from publisher for honest review
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.


So I ended this one with some very mixed feelings.  On one hand, the concept is just so unique and magical---under the religion of Profeta, inklings send prophetic messages to people through magical tattoos that they ink onto their own skin and then "release". It then transfers the tattoo to the one who it's meant for.  Celia Sand, an inkling since she was 6, is our feisty and high spirited protagonist, whose eyes begin to open and she starts to doubt the true legitimacy and faith behind the tattoos they deliver. Is it truly about faith and altruistic intentions or is it about manipulation and control? 

Such an interesting tale, and the writing at first was beautiful, but as we got deeper into the story, I felt at times it just got a little overdramatic and muddled.  It just wasn't staying with me, wasn't keeping me engaged. I did love the strong friendship and love between Anya and Celia, if anyone seemed capable of bringing down a corrupt religion it was the two of them, both clever and passionate and able to lean on each other infallibly. There was a very light romance but I found the Plague doctor to be a little too broody and cryptic to keep me invested and hoping for a connection between him and Celia. There are so many side characters and many of them are interesting, but we don't learn much about them and at times it was hard to keep them straight. 

Though I struggled through much of it, I did make it to end and was glad I did---the resolution was bloody and hard-won, thrilling and tragic. I'll likely pick up book two to see if this beautiful and unique world can fully draw me in next time.

{About The Author}

Kim Smejkal writes dark fantasy for young adults and not-so-young adults, always with a touch of magic. Her debut novel, INK IN THE BLOOD, will release from HMH in early 2020.

When she’s not writing, she’s homeschooling her kids, tutoring other people’s kids, and voraciously hoarding any precious alone time. Though she grew up on the Canadian prairies, she now lives with her family on beautiful, muse-satiating Vancouver Island. She is represented by Daniel Lazar of Writers House.

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim {review}

by Elizabeth Lim
publisher: Knopf BYR
release date: July 9th, 2019
hardcover, 392 pages
intended audience: Young adult
series: The Blood of Stars, book 1
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.


This book. The Asian mythology, the Mulan inspiration, the adventure and romance, all of that was wonderful, but nothing fascinated me like the descriptions of gorgeous fashion design and sewing!! What a beautiful tale! 

Maia immediately drew me in with her dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, and having the heart, bravery, and sheer determination to reach for it, even when it meant putting her life on the line. She knew she had what it took and she pushed aside any and all backward thinking to prove herself.  The story is basically split into two parts, a contest and quest.  The contest itself was high stakes and very cut-throat, and I loved all the vivid descriptions of the clothing. The quest was so unique and adventurous with such imaginative world building, as Maia and the enigmatic Edan set off to aquire the ultimate magical materials held by the sun, the moon and the stars. Together the two parts of this fantastic and fashionable tale made quite an epic story!

{About The Author}
Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, "Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that's kinda cool!" But after one of her teachers told her she had "too much voice" in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.
Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel -- for kicks, at first, then things became serious -- and she hasn't looked back since.
Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon