BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: Stolen Ink


Title: Stolen Ink (Ink Born Book One)

Publisher: Chaos Fox

Author: Holly Evans

Pages: 283 pp

Price: free to $8.30

Dacian Corbeaux is a tattoo magician -- or, more correctly, an ink magician. In a world of Gods and fae, hedge witches and dream walkers and feral shapeshifters, Dacian is a rarity, one so rare and powerful that he has not told anyone about his true abilities. In Dacian's world, everyone has at least one tattoo -- an animal companion, a sentient spirit being which takes form via tattoo. Once brought into the world, such beings exist as both tattoos and as separate entities, able to leave their person's body, but the link between host and animal spirit is forever, sacred, and unbreakable.

Except by an ink magician. Like Dacian.

And now someone is killing powerful mages, cutting their tattoos from their bodies, stealing their spirit companions, and leaving them to die in agony.

And the ink network -- the primal force which gives form to tattoo magic -- has chosen Dacian to stop the murderer ....

I'll be right up front here: I was left feeling deeply ambivalent about Stolen Ink. Yes, there is absolutely a lot here to like. This is a well-realized, richly-detailed fantasy world. There are so many little details that bring it to life, and so much that feels wonderfully, authentically polytheist. For example, Dacian regularly swears at the gods. The gods are embedded in reality, an integral part of everyone's life; they simply are. The Wild Hunt is real, too, and hounds (such as Dacian's friend, Caiden) are both feared and respected. I also loved the descriptions of the wild magic which flies around, and Ben the dream walker's crazy quilt apartment, and the fact that -- when pixies explode -- they are literal glitter bombs.

It is not the world with which I had an issue, or the story, or the characters (mostly). It's the way in which the story was told. Evans' writing style is very repetitive and, despite all those awesome details, oddly lacking in ... well ... narrative structure. She repeats Dacian's status as an ink magician and his plans to run away if he is ever discovered over and over and over again. She repeats the fact that Dacian and his fae tattoo partner Keirn used to be lovers over and over and over again.

At the same time, some scenes were strangely short in detail. Characters would simply appear, with no explanation as to where they had come from; or, there would be a knock at the door and characters would enter the room, but the reader had no idea who or how many as they were not identified until they spoke. In a few cases, characters completely disappeared from the narrative with no discernible explanation.

Finally, there is Dacian himself. I get that he is a decent guy. I get that he has a rare gift and that he is terrified of how his friends, and the government, will react if he is ever discovered. I get that he is doing his best to solve a series of murders when he has no training in investigation whatsoever. ... But, at the same time, he comes across as more than a bit self-centered. At one point, his inaction -- mild spoiler -- leads to the death of another character. The consequences of his inaction were so glaringly obvious that I almost stopped reading; I was just that mad at Dacian. I spent most of the book trying to figure out why the other characters were so loyal to him when he spent most of the book silently forming plans to split town at a moment's notice. (Yeah, I get that they were not privy to his inner thoughts, but the contrast was still jarring.)

Thus: ambivalent. Lots to love and lots to drive me batty.

Stolen Ink. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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