INK IN THE BLOOD - Kim Smejkal
5 theatrical stars
I would read this over and over. A gritty traveling circus, the angel v. the devil, romantic tension to CUT a KNIFE, tattoos, diverse orientations, and again for the people in the back romantic tension on POINT.
Romance elements: literally the best in YA, it is FRESH
Imagery: ★★★★★ *chef's kiss*
So I don't care what's on your TBR for this month. Make room for Ink in the Blood.
If you loved the Night Circus for its iconic imagery and archetypal romance figures that were players on a stage as well as flesh and blood love interests, you'll love this.
If you liked the gritty, broken shards of Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows, just wait until you meet the plague doctor, a man who never takes off his sharp-edged mask because he's already died once and he's too much for your eyes. He's the ringmaster of the troupe, the reminder that death is always waiting, and he'll tempt you to the devil if you'll let him.
But he's not the devil—its Celia, our protagonist, who dons the horns and lies and smoke to hide from herself and her Divine. She believes she can coat herself in enough lies to save herself from her fate. But can she run from the ink in her blood?
Ink in the Blood is all of the above, plus a one-of-a-kind religious system based on tattoos, the Divine, Diavala (the devil), and a matriarchal plot line that feels like the perfect amount of grit, soul, and lying diamonds.
I know the blurb mentions a lot of things, and some of them are what I've said and some of them just allude to things to come. Please don't be disillusioned by the first few chapters. I was, and I thought this was going to be a very different book. But, I promise, it's not. Get to the circus. It is perfection from there.
Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
The hype around this novel might be a bit much, yes, but Truly Devious is a really great example of how a YA mystery/thriller can be done well.
Villain(s)/Reveal(s): ★★★ 1/2
One thing that I completely, utterly agree on about this book is that it is unputdownable. What a great main character, and what a good plot. It's not the most ingenious plot in the world, but its boarding school setting, its split timeline with the 1930s, and its main character's drive to be a detective really propelled this story along. I loved the process of reading it, even as certain things kept it from perfection.
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school known for its genius students. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, a fan of devious mysteries, games, and learning for the sake of learning. He make a boarding school with hidden rooms, twists, and turns. He never expected his school to be used for a murder. "Truly Devious," a pen name, kidnaps Ellingham's wife and daughter and leaves cryptic riddles in their wake. Forever unsolved, the case goes down in American history.
Stevie Bell, a private detective in training, decides to apply to the school to solve the cold case. Shocked to be chosen as one of the elite, she finds herself in the midst of school politics, rich kids with problems, and a lot of things to observe.
When someone is found dead on Ellingham's campus, Stevie realizes "Truly Devious" might not be done with their crimes...
I really appreciated this novel's readability. As someone who loves Agatha Christie, I enjoyed reading this modern version of Poirot with her nods to the master himself. It is a great gateway series for teens who would (hopefully) be encouraged to pick up more in the genre after reading this book.
Stevie as a character really sold it for me. She has anxiety—and it actually manifests. It's really nice to see panic attacks and the like represented in teen fiction, as I was once a teen that had panic attacks and, as I never saw them represented in TV or books, had zero idea what was "wrong" with me. It's nice to see that normalized and portrayed.
Overall, a nice solid start to the series. Not a particularly inspired ending, BUT as it's a series I hold out hope for a more epic reveal to come—Truly Devious isn't yet solved.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.