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Inkmistress Hardcover – March 6, 2018
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From School Library Journal
“Asra’s rich emotions in the face of difficult choices in this coming-of-age saga will absorb audiences.” (Booklist)
“Engag[es] teens in a mystical world of darkness and blood magic. Fans of dragons, dark magic, and romance will embrace this novel.” (School Library Journal)
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “A powerful and exquisite love story” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “This book is bold enough to create a world that moves beyond the prejudices we are still fighting in our real world.” (Caitlyn Paxson, NPR)
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “A deeply romantic, bold, and nuanced fantasy. You will be captivated by Denna and Mare and their star-crossed love for each other.” (Malinda Lo, Author of Ash and Huntress)
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “Lovely…a worthy debut that succeeds as both an adventure and a romance.” (Booklist)
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “Murder, mayhem, magic, romance―and horses…a romantic fantasy that will appeal to those who appreciate character-driven novels.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “I devoured Of Fire and Stars in two sittings; it’s a delightful debut, full of all the things I like best in a fantasy story, including not one but two wonderful heroines. I’m looking forward to seeing what Audrey does in the future!” (Mercedes Lackey, New York Times bestselling author of over 125 books, including the Valdemar series)
Praise for OF FIRE AND STARS: “Coulthursts’s debut is an absolute delight; I loved seeing these smart, fierce princesses fall in captivating, slow-burn love as they investigate political assassinations and unravel magical conspiracies.” (Corinne Duyvis, author of Otherbound and On the Edge of Gone)
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Bisexuals who are with boys are still bisexual. Bisexuals who are with girls are still bisexual. Bisexuals who are with people who identify as nonbinary are still bisexual. Bisexuals who have never been with anyone are still bisexual.
And the fact that I still have to say this, in 2018, is why Inkmistress is now one of my favorite YA Fantasies of all time. We need books, of all genres, that normalize sexuality in every aspect. But you all might not realize how rare it is to read a book about a bisexual girl ending up with a boy and still seeing her bisexuality beautifully on display. This book moved me to tears. And I believe with my whole heart that this book is going to be one of my all-time favorites.
“You would never hurt anyone on purpose, Asra, and that is both your strength and your weakness.”
Inkmistress follows one of my new favorite protagonists, Asra, who lives her life secluded away in the mountains. She lives her life in hiding, only traveling down to the village below when weather permits it, to help them with births and other medicinal needs. Yet, some people still view her as a witch. But what Asra really is is so much more powerful.
Asra has the power to change the future, present, and past with her blood. Yet, at a cost. To be able to wield such power, it takes from her lifeforce and ages her. But we soon learn that there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for a girl who has accepted her when no one else has.
Also in this world, people come into adulthood when they are able to manifest, or bond with an animal by being blessed by the six gods that truly do control this world. Obviously, some animals are more powerful than others, but the most important thing is to just be able to manifest.
Asra feels like she has no other choice but to grant the girl, who she loves more than anything in this world, her wish: to finally manifest. And manifest Ina does. Into something more powerful than Asra imaged. Unfortunately, it is not the happiest of celebrations, because Asra learns again that it is a very scary thing to wish for something, and there will always be consequences of shaping the future.
From there we are sent on a journey and an adventure, where Asra is trying to do the right thing, while also trying to learn who and what she really is. And I promise, it is nothing short of amazing. And we get to meet so many wonderful side characters. Even though I’m very biased towards Hal, who is a PoC who stole my heart completely. I instantly loved him. And let me tell you, the Romance in this book is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, seriously.
“Love was the way he made me laugh when I least thought it possible, and the way our voices came together to sing a tavern song inappropriate for most company. Love was the way he kissed me until I knew without doubt that anywhere he was would be home.”
This book has such an important discussion on unconditionally love, and how you are always worthy and deserving of it. We see unapologetic heartbreak in this book, and it’s not easy to read, but it’s so important to read. Very rarely is your first love your only love, and sometimes you figure that out in a very hurtful way. And just in general, nothing hurts worse than when someone you love hurts you, betrays you, or chooses to not love you anymore. Learning that it is okay to love again, and that you are worthy of love, is something that so many people struggle with, myself included. And in case you need a reminder, from a random book reviewer: You are deserving of love, always and forever, you are deserving of love.
“In these dark and lonely moments, did she think of me as I thought of her?”
And I see people saying this feels info-dumpy? But I honestly didn’t feel like that at all. Maybe it is because I read so much Adult High and Epic Fantasy? But I easily understood and fell in love with the world and the world building. I thought it was super easy to understand, yet I was completely mesmerized at every new development. Like, I truly think this world was close to perfect in my eyes.
And this is completely irrelevant to my rating, but I still have to shout it from the rooftops: This book has one of my all time favorite names! And you all know I’ve read a lot of books, and this was the first time I have ever seen it printed in a story. And I’m not that big of a tease to not tell you all; the name is Garen, and I first fell in love with it back 2011 when I first installed League of Legends. Well, it’s 2018 and it is still my all-time favorite, so I couldn’t resist gushing. Also, to further prove that the universe perfectly aligned to put this book into my hands.
And this book is truly a blessing. It had everything I like to see in my Fantasy: Girls with hidden powers, blood magic, herbal healing, gods, tyrant kings, traveling from city to city, secret societies, swoon-worthy romance, friendship, motherhood, twists, turns, betrayals, and… dragons. Honestly, I know I’m not even near considered a teen anymore, but I feel like I was completely targeted by this book. And I think so many of my Adult Fantasy reader friends would love this one, too.
The writing is beautiful, the journey and adventure were perfection, the messages are so important. I was living for the feministic themes, I was swooning over the romance, I was crying over the reveals. I will carry this story with me forever, I will recommend this story to every fantasy lover I ever meet, I will always consider myself blessed to have been privileged enough to open this book.
The only negative thing I can even think of saying is that I’m kicking myself that I haven’t read Of Fire and Stars yet. I feel like this book did such a wonderful job hinting at what is to come, and I am so excited. I am 100% obviously telling you that you can read this first and completely enjoy the story, but I bet you’d get a lot of enjoyment if you have read Of Fire and Stars.
Overall, this was everything to me. It means more to me than I can say, or any word combination my fingers could type for you. I loved this. I truly loved this with the sum of my being. And the more I think about it, the more I fall in love with it. I just hope you all give it a try and fall in love with it, too.
So Asra is a blood scribe, which means that her abilities will ALWAYS make her a target for human ambition and greed. I wonder why she never thought to write a situation for herself, and any future blood scribes that use of their blood without consent will result in some sort of back lash. This would ensure and deter any repeat of Varick and Asra misfortunes.
And also, I have some deep seated issue with the fact that Asra is so forgiving of her Ex's manipulation, betrayal, and ambition. To raise her Ex's child....and out of of the goodness of her heart to fix the magical imbalance, I think Asra could have leveraged for so much more. She could have demanded and electorial ruling process to ensure her Ex (who's name escapes me) doesn't make the same mistakes as the King and become self serving. These are my thoughts.....im think long term end game.
Top international reviews
[Livre lu en VO]
Après avoir lu et beaucoup apprécié Of Fire and Stars, je n'ai pas pu m'empêcher de commencer Inkmistress dès que j'ai pu, bien que sachant qu'il ne s'agirait pas des adorables personnages du premier tome. Je n'ai pas été déçue! De peu, Inkmistress détrône Of Fire and Stars.
Malgré mon amour pour Denna et Mare, les protagonistes du premier tome, elles ne m'ont pas manquées dans ce préquel : en effet, on y retrouve de nouveaux personnages tout aussi attachants, surtout Asra et Hal. Ils sont très réalistes : ils se trompent, changent d'avis, apprennent au fur et à mesure, prennent des décisions rationnelles sans non plus être des robots...Malgré leur statut de demi-dieux, ils sont en fait très humains et sont une véritable force dans ce roman.
J'ai beaucoup apprécié les clins d'oeil à Of Fire and Stars et les liens subtils, tout comme j'ai aimé que l'auteure lève enfin le voile sur le mystère du premier tome, c'est-à-dire ce qu'il se passe en Zumorda. Cependant, il faut noter que ce tome-ci peut être lu indépendamment du tome un. Si Of Fire and Stars pose les bases du monde de nos héroïnes (Denna, Mare et Asra), Inkmistress vient les compléter avec brio.
Comme dans Of Fire and Stars, la romance est le deuxième meilleur point du récit : très bien construite, de manière très progressive et sans niaiseries, elle donne autant envie de tourner les pages que l'action et le scénario. Audrey Coulthurst écrit encore une fois à propos d'une protagoniste issue de la communauté LGBT, ici bisexuelle, sans en faire quelque chose d'extraordinaire ou hors de la norme.
Ainsi, le seul reproche que je peux faire à ce livre, hormis le fait qu'il lui manquait cette petite étincelle pour devenir un coup de coeur, ce sont les petits longueurs par ci et par là...
En somme, Inkmistress est largement à la hauteur de mes attentes : non seulement ce préquel reprend à Of Fire and Stars un monde de fantasy très bien développé, mais également le schéma d'une romance bien construite et des personnages très attachants, le tout dans un scénario encore mieux ficelé et plus addictif. Maintenant, il va falloir endurer une longue attente avant la sortie d'Of Ice and Shadows...et je vous conseille d'ailleurs de lire Inkmistress avant le second tome, puisqu'il explique beaucoup sur le royaume de Zumorda.
As for criticism, I thought that the exposition in the first chapter could have been done in a more subtle way, or paced more evenly. It felt slightly awkward, though once the reader is settled, the story sweeps in and doesn't let you put the book down. That is also the author's greatest improvement from her first book. The story arcs were nicely tied and wove organically into each other, and were bought to life by the character's emotional journey.
A point I would like to highlight is the author's depiction of bisexual characters and characters of color. Though it was a bit off at times, I felt that the author made a truly honest attempt and kept moslty out of harmful stereotypes, drawing nuanced and heartfelt characters. However, I will let bisexual people and people of color be the judge of that.
I will now expend more on the bisexual/poc representation, though this will include a few spoilers.
So SPOILERS AHEAD!
The story starts with a rather typical scenario for queer women: two women, Asra and Ina are in love, but Ina is bethroted to a boy because it is in her (and her family's) interests. But, plotwist, Ina actually doesn't really love Asra, and she got really close to this boy aaaand she got pregnant. Now, I'm sure some of you are familiar with the stereotype of the bisexual girl who is actually just 'experimenting' and manipulating girls and ends up with a boy anyway. Fortunately, that is not really the story here. She didn't love this boy either and at the end of the story we get some glimpses of a possible romance between her and another woman, Nis.
This background possible romance (we only get a few scenes indicating it is happening) is actually what truly made Ina's and Nis's characters compelling. Indeed, they are both described as cruel and manipulative, hard women. That is the kind of portrayal that can be truly hurtful, especially for a bisexual character and a black woman (as Nis is). This romance, and the few moments of tenderness the characters have for each other, reveal another side to them, a sweetness and a depth that makes the reader want for more. If there is ever a spin-off (even a short story) of this book, I would be particularly interested by what happens between them.
Now, for the main romance. Asra, after being hurt and left behind by Ina, meets a very sweet boy named Hal. He is truly the sweetest, kindest, funniest character of the story. And this matters a lot, as Hal is a black man. You might know about the harmful stereotypes surrounding black men, depicting them as menacing and dangerous, sometimes preying on white women. On the opposite, Asra and Hal's romance revolves around Hal's respect and acceptance of Asra. A sweet and wonderful romance, the kinds of like one would wish to see more often.
Overall, this is a book I would suggest for fantasy fans who would like to see a bit more of representation, done in a respectful and honest way.