Well this is a first! I'm reviewing a book!
That means that for the first time in a long time I've actually read a book. The book in question was "Ink" by Alice Broadway and I've been looking forward to this one for a while. A novel about tattoos? Of course I'm going to be all over that. "Ink" isn't what I expected, not what I expected at all but, you know what? That's a good thing!
So....anyway...away we go!
Well first off, this is one good looking book. Quite possibly the best looking book I've read but should we, given the story it contains, judge a book by it's cover?
Secondly, at 46 I am a long way from the target demographic that this novel is aimed at. Young adult, I am not. That said, I really enjoyed this book, loved it in parts, bemused by it in others and was genuinely surprised by the ending. So what's it all about?
"Ink" is the story of Leora Flint, a teenage girl coming to terms with the passing of her father, final exams and the start of her working life. All very straightforward, teen angst, grief and stress, or so you would think.
However, Leora lives in a Saintstone and Saintstone isn't like other places. In the world that Leora lives each and every inhabitant is tattooed, their life's successes and failures, their age, their family history, everything even their name (which is tattooed at birth)...all documented and immortalised in "marks" in their skin and many of these marks are obligatory, state approved tattoos. Of course, the residents can continue their own story with designs of their own, but the basics? They are determined by the state.
The "Marked" live happy lives, they are kind and truthful, honest and caring. There is almost no crime, the future is mapped out for them, their skills assessed and their place in society determined by the time they leave school.
When the good folk of Saintstone die, their story is flayed from their body and turned in to the pages of their book. This book and the tale of the soul who owned it are then "weighed" to determine how good or bad the soul was. The good books go back to the family to be placed in their libraries, their stories there to be re-read and remembered for all time, the bad books are tossed into the fires of judgement and destroyed, their owners doomed to become "The Forgotten".
The only cloud in the idyllic Saintstone sky is the one they call "Blanks".
"Blanks" are long since banished, wholly despicable, murderous, child stealing terrorists who have no marks and who are a constant threat to the Saintstone way of life. At least that's the official line.
It is in this environment that the incredibly gifted but shy, Leora embarks on an emotional journey of discovery, nothing in her life is at it seems. Truth and fiction blur, everything and everyone she has known is not quite what their tattooed stories suggest. Everything she has believed comes into question, her very faith is shaken and her very own life is something very different from the one she knew.
Fans of the Divergent series, Hunger Games and Maze Runner will find a comfortable familiarity in "Ink", itself the first part of what will be a trilogy. I for one would look forward to seeing "Ink" on the big screen.
Where "Ink" differs from it's predecessors is that it lacks the all action battles, the acrobatics and the heroine, while clearly destined for greatness of some sort in the future, displays little more than being a confused teen for the most part. Talented, smart and a little awkward, Leora is a champion for geeks everywhere and she does it all without the grace of her more famous counterparts.
Yet, when she does eventually open her wings to fly, boy does she fly!
If you want to know more, read the book. I'm not going to spoil it for you by spilling the beans on the tale itself. It is worth the read and that's all I have to say about that.
I found some parts of the book quite predictable but I say this more because I'm thirty years older than the target demographic rather than because the book is predictable (if that makes sense). The stories taken from Marked faith lean very heavily on well known fairy stories and famous mythology, but I suspect there is a message in this fact rather than a lack of creativity, as some other reviews I've read have suggested. The tale that tells the story of how the Marked and the Blanks came into being isn't one I recognise and, if it is original, the Brothers Grimm would have been very proud of it.
Alice Broadway tells a great story, it is clever in it's originality but it has the comfortable feeling of familiar ground. There is political intrigue, religious doctrine and an "Inker" who reads minds (much like my tattooist seems to read mine...hang on...she's called Laura!). My own struggle to understand Faith and religion and the difference between the two are mirrored in Leora. The sabre rattling speeches of Enoch Powell, Donald Trump and others of their ilk would find a happy home among the leadership of the Marked and the real or imagined shadow of the Blanks could just as easily be the spectre of Islam that, as we are so frequently reminded, looms over the West.
For me, "Ink" was a refreshing change, the lack of "action scenes", in my opinion, allows the reader to know more about who Leora is, rather then what she can do. It allows us to focus on her emotional development rather than her development of martial arts. We've all seen the feeble young girl get knocked out only to avenge the defeat in spectacular fashion. She isn't Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior, not yet at least, unlike Katniss and Tris, I won't have to use Google to remember her name. What ever the Scales say when the time comes, Leora Flint will be remembered.
"Ink" is an incredibly clever book.
Get "Ink" by Alice Broadway by clicking the link. You might just thank me for it.