I wanted to love Inkmistress. I wanted to so hard; I knew it was a prequel-companion type to Of Fire and Stars, which I hadn’t read yet but c’mon, queer ladies! I got about halfway through the book before I just had to put it down…
Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.
But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.
Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.
Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.
A bisexual demigoddess! Searching for her love who’s on a hell-bent quest for revenge! How awesome does that sound! As a queer author myself, I wanted to devour this book immediately!
Unfortunately, it only sounded awesome. I was disappointed as I read the story. I was into it at first, the first few chapters revolving around Ina and Asra were great, but then things took a turn when Ina went off. Things stopped making sense.
There was no tension. A rogue group of bandits attack Ina’s village and burn it to the ground because Asra used her blood magic to force the future, but then when Ina takes her animal form–a great dragon (awesome!)–she immediately finds the bandits and burns them to a crisp. There’s no hunt, no tension, no “will Asra stop Ina in time to save these people who should be punished but not by dragon fire?” going on. It was immediate and not at all satisfying.
I couldn’t get into the rest of the story; once Ina had disposed of the bandits, she suddenly wanted to go kill the king–something that came out of the blue. That left Asra trying to run after her. Asra meets another kid of the wind god and she realizes that she’s not who she thought she was and she’s left wondering who her godly parents really is. For this plot point alone I would have kept reading.
But I just couldn’t get myself to enjoy the dialogue; it felt forced and stiff, a little too out of place for a high fantasy story.
But I didn’t hate the book. I loved its rich magic and Coulthurst had some amazing worldbuilding too. But Inkmistress just wasn’t for me.
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