by Kevin Hearne
Series: Ink & Sigil #2
Publication Date: August 12, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Well, this was fun. The follow up to the first book, Ink & Sigil, takes place in Melbourne, Australia, my current residence of record. Specifically, in the Dandenong Ranges, one of my favorite places here, as it’s primarily rain forest.
This is not a mystery in any sense, but more a quest. Al and Buck arrive in Melbourne to assist the apprentice sigil agent there with finding her master, who felt a disturbance in the wards, went to investigate, and never returned. On their way to her last known location, they pick up a hitchhiker, Al’s receptionist, who should be in Scotland but isn’t, Gladys-who-has-seen-some-shite, and meet up with Connor, a/k/a Atticus, the Iron Druid. Once they get to the trail, they pick up a few more adventurers, some old friends and some new.
This is the rag-tag band that goes out to save the missing sigil agents, if they can be saved, and battle the ever stranger beasts, unimagined chimeras, that spring up in their path. The only unanswered questions are how the entity arrived and why, but those are answered 2/3rds of the way through rather matter-of-factly, so there’s really no buildup of suspense – just a few minor skirmishes, a perilous passage, and finally the epic battle royale and showdown with those responsible.
Quests have never been my jam, so there was an element of unmet expectation for me. By dint of my reading tastes, I unconsciously kept waiting for a climax or big reveal. But other than that, which the setting more than made up for, I enjoyed the story. The characters felt less over-the-top for me this time around and the humor slightly less adolescent-male, though the hobgoblin, Buck, made up for the quantity with some stunning quality here and there. I could wish that were toned down a bit more.
I happened to read the Acknowledgments that are at the end, first, and noted that Hearne had every intention of visiting Australia to do the research for this book until the Pandemic we all know and love (to hate) reared its ugly head. He was forced to get the details second hand and I have to say, having been to all the places he’s mentioned, he and his sources, did a bang up job of getting it right. The only two tiny details I caught, and only because they vexed me when I arrived here 14 years ago, was in the scene at the Healesville Hotel. The first is that, unless things have changed, there is no table service at the bar. The vast majority of casual dining/drinking establishments here don’t have table service. You order at the counter and then pay at the counter before you leave. The second is that Ya-ping ordered an iced tea. I’d kill to be able to order iced tea here – the flavoured stuff is becoming popular here now in a niche way, but they still think iced black tea is a sacrilege. Both of these things are entirely inconsequential, and I mention them only for the opportunity to vent about them.
I suspect I’m not strictly the target demographic for this series, but I enjoy it anyway and I’m looking forward to the third book, where, hopefully, Gladys-who-has-seen-some-shite will once again play a role. I like her.
I read this for Halloween Bingo and it is the perfect book for In the Dark, Dark Woods as you can see in the above pictures I took in the Dandenong Ranges. It would also work for Cryptozoologist, as the story is littered with chimeras that include a dragon-turtle-spider and a cassowary-cobra to name but two.