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Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever.
When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars on this one, mainly because I really liked the concept and the plot but I thought the writing itself was a little lacklustre.
Ink is a dystopian novel set in the town of Saintstone, where people revere honesty and openness to such an extent that they have every important deed and experience of their life tattooed upon their skin for all to see. Each citizen’s skin becomes a map of their life marking their family, qualifications, trade, achievements and any misdemeanours. When they die, their skin is flayed and made into books which are then judged at a special ceremony. Those that are found ‘worthy’ are remembered forever, whilst unworthy books are cast into the fire of judgement and their souls damned.
I really liked the premise and found the setting to be very unique. Unlike other dystopian novels, the sinister nature of the society isn’t obvious at first and having your life inked upon your skin sounds like a neat idea. On the surface, Saintstone is a peaceful place with very little crime as nothing can be hidden. Their devotion to traditions and stories is reminiscent of various world religions-for instance the legend of ‘Saint’ echoes the story of Jesus’ death. You can see how their faith brings the community together and strengthens them.
However, it all comes at a price. The citizens of Saintstone have sacrificed their privacy for security, and many live in fear of their secrets being discovered. The main character, Leora, is a model citizen at the beginning of the book, frustratingly gullible and devoted to her cult-like religion. However, as she starts to unravel the mystery of her father’s missing skin she starts to have doubts about their way of life and questions everything she has been brought up to believe. She then becomes a much more sympathetic character whom I started to root for.
Another unique aspect of this novel is that it weaves fairy tales into the narrative. Familiar tales such as Sleeping Beauty are given a dystopian twist. I really enjoyed interpreting these tales and working out what they might represent to the people of Saintstone.
The plot was a little slow at times and somewhat predictable, but the world-building was excellent. The characters were likeable and interesting. They all have their secrets and throughout the novel I found myself wondering who Leora could really trust. I found myself thinking about the nature of loyalty and how far I would go to protect my friends or family. Obel, in particular, was a great character and his mentorship of Leora reminded me of the relationship between Cinna and Katniss in The Hunger Games. I also enjoyed the complicated relationship between Leora and her mother, who are both dealing with grief in their own way.
My only criticism of Ink would be that at times I felt the author was doing a lot of telling rather than showing. Sometimes Leora would repeat things that she already knew just to inform the reader about the back-story, which I felt was unrealistic. I would have preferred to discover more about the world organically rather than having Leora explain it all the time. The language Broadway uses is very straightforward and doesn’t contain much imagery, which I know some readers prefer. I found it easy to read and got through it quite quickly.
Overall, Ink is an interesting story with a very memorable and unique setting. It made me think deeply about identity and the extent to which being remembered after death is a kind of immortality. When I picked it up I thought it was a stand-alone novel, but I was pleased to find out that there is a sequel, Spark, that came out in April. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out how the characters progress and I think the journey is going to be exciting.
“I am not the right kind of anything. My breasts are too small for me to be curvy; and I’m sure my bum is too big for me to be slim. My face is too quirky to be pretty and too plain to be striking. ”
“The princess was enraged. How could they have kept such a secret from her? If she had known, she would never have been so foolish as to prick her finger on a spinning wheel. Wondering if she could ever trust them again she rode away with the prince. She told him that he shouldn’t kiss sleeping girls, and that she would think about his marriage proposal in a few years.”
“We’re all a bit bad. We all have things in our lives that bring us shame and regret. Things that have hurt our souls or hurt the people we love. But we’re all a bit good too. I reckon we’re mostly good actually. And life is about trying to learn the balance, plot our place on the continuum [… ] We’re not just made up of good and bad: we’re everything else too.”
Before you go…
Have you read Ink? Did you enjoy it?