by Kevin Hearne
Series: Ink & Sigil #1
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Del Ray Books
Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.
But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.
But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.
The first book in a new series that takes place in the same world as the Iron Druid Chronicles, I’d heard two completely opposite views on it before I picked it up: one saying it was great, and hilarious, and the other calling it woefully juvenile.
Having read the book myself I can say: yes. Maybe not woefully juvenile, but the humor is heavily scatalogical in places and it’s clear the author prefers his jokes to be of the earthier, less-sophisticated variety. They weren’t my definition of funny, but I didn’t find them offensive either.
The story itself was enjoyable, though a little heavy handed thematically. It’s a credit to the author that he uses his story space to confront a problem that gets very little serious time: the trafficking of humans, using both the fae-trafficking plot line, as well as the sub-plot of Al learning more about the human side, and doing his part to stop it and advocate for its victims. But it, like the humor in the book, isn’t subtle. He has a point, and a message, and he’s going to make sure his readers don’t miss it.
There’s a lot of story-building in this first book, with a couple of chapters devoted just to how Al met his business manager/battle seer, Nadia, and the flow is a bit wandering. It works, but I noticed it; I was never actively bored while reading it, but I had mind space to notice that the story wasn’t very linear or fast-moving.
I have this 4 stars because the sum is greater than its parts. The things I spoke about above, taken by themselves, would be turn-offs, but as a whole, the story was enjoyable. I don’t regret buying a hardcover copy, and I’ll happily read the next one. Though I will also hope the humor that the humor, along with the whiskey Al so dearly loves, matures.
I read this for Halloween Bingo 2020, to fulfil the Spellbound square, which is not on my card, but I used my transfiguration spell card to change from American Horror Story.