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Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal

Publisher/date:  HMH Books for Young Readers (February 11, 2020)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Ink in the Blood Duology

"You two are bright stars in the Rabble Mob, and the Rabble Mob is family.”


The first in what’s going to be an amazing series, Kim Smejkal blew me away with this one. Have you ever felt like you were on the inside of something big? I joined Kim’s street team for Ink in the Blood because I have a thing for tattoo books, so I figured I’d like it. But HOLY SHIT. Damn this is good. I feel the need to hoard my ARC copy because it might be a part of something BIG. Sorry for using so many capital letters but I’m actually yelling because I’m SO blown away.

"Just like that, he’d hopped onboard her ship without realizing that the deck was rotted."

Celia is an inkling. She is a worker bee in a religion that keeps its hold on people through tattoos. She literally carries a goddess’s ink in her blood, and receives orders from the High Mistico for the tattoos, passed on from the Divine, which she tattoos on herself and “pushes” to the recipient.

But her religion hides a dark secret, and it’s not just the horrid abuse of its inklings. She plans to escape with her best friend. But can they ever be free from the Divine herself?

“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.”

Welcome to the Rabble Mob. Griffin is The Plague Doctor in a troupe of traveling players. He is suspicious of Celia and Amaya from day one. What are they hiding? Will it endanger his family? And, even worse, themselves?

"They hadn’t explicitly asked for help, but Celia discovered Us was funny like that—they hadn’t needed to ask."

This book is an onion, it has many layers. There is the epically amazing story. But then there is the world, where children choose their own names and sexual orientation and gender are not assumed, they are chosen. And accepted. And then there is the family aspect, the deep and complicated meanings of true love, whether through blood or chosen family. There are strange and deep bonds that are studied here, between Celia and her friend, and their new chosen family, and their original parents, and their god.

And there is the Commedia, a reflection of life itself, a story within a story. "The Commedia represents the whole of humanity: the infinite struggles, the triumphs, the despair. But the Rabble Mob of Minos takes it all and puts it directly in your pocket."

I am always afraid when I read the first book in a series that it cannot stand alone. This book is the perfect balance of a complete story with an epilogue that makes you desperate to read the next.

The ending, while I will not give away anything but that there are more than one plot twist, will destroy you. But why do we read if not to be emotionally wrecked and to love and hate the writer at the same time? I love a writer even more if I hate them a bit. Don’t we all?

"Everyone’s breaking was inevitable. Shouldn’t he, above all, understand that best?"

If you are into LGBTQ representation, or tattoos, or strong powerful but morally ambiguous heroins, or lovably arrogant guys, or if you just enjoy being fucking destroyed by a book, preorder this one.

5/5, order this book! You'll want to read it and reread it again. One of my top 5 this year!

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