Book Review: Stolen Ink by Holly Evans
You know that shortlist of back-of-the-book keywords that are krypton to your wallet? One moment you’re browsing the shelf, the next you’re in the checkout isle, and all because the book mentioned a psychic cat familiar or told you you’re about to embark on a urban fantasy romance filled with tattoo magic. Or both.
Enter Stolen Ink by Holly Evans.
The concept kicks ass. In this story’s alternative modern day, everyone has an animal spirit that’s bursting to come out. This spirit takes its physical shape through a magical tattoo, which, once inked, becomes a psychic familiar (think Pullman’s The Golden Compass). Drawing these critters is Dacian’s job. He’s a tattoo magician who runs a parlor with his elven partner and pretends to be a middling, third-tier tattooist. Except he’s not.
In a world where everyone is magical to some degree, Dacian’s an ink magician, with a direct line to the heart of magic, who spends most of his time in denial, not doing anything about it. Which is fine and dandy, right up till the Big Bad shows up in his city and starts stealing people’s tattoos and killing them.
Add in a bit of romance, a collection of friends and frenemies, a paranoid and power-hungry council, and it’s everything I could ask for. And yet when expectations are this high, there’s so much space for letdown.
The Letdown: While interesting in concept. The story likes Dacian, and coddles him just a bit too much. I struggled to feel any real sense of danger threatening Dacian, and for such a short book, the pacing and the time we spend in Dacian’s head makes it feel longer.
Still slow pacing and plot can be fine, especially when there’s plenty of drama in the hero’s love life. Unfortunately, Dacian settles into a long-term relationship fairly early in the story and stays there. While I love realism and slow-burn and committed relationships in my fiction reading, there is an uneveness there that keeps me waiting uneasily for the other shoe to drop.
That and the book falls into a common trap. The hero’s companions fail to have their own lives and personalities beyond their need and desire to support, protect and help the main character. Everyone likes Dacian – or, at the very least will grumble only a little bit before laying down their lives for him.
Read this as a fantasy story with a bit of mystery and a dollop of romance. Much of the story reflects on his relationships with his once elven lover, his new lover, and a cast of interesting, clever characters.
The ending leaves the story in an excellent place for a kickass sequel. Color me intrigued.
Three out of Five Stars
Guest review contributed by The Canary Review. TCR is an independent, online book reviewer with a love of anything in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. Action and romance subplots are always welcome.