Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison. Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further. To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
This one was sort of on the back of my radar for awhile. I knew it had something to do with tattoos and ink, but nothing more than that. Though, when I finally took it upon myself to find out what it’s about, it sounded like such a fascinating fantasy. A corrupt religion, messages spread through ink, best friends? It definitely sounded like a book I wanted to try.
I’m not quite sure how to explain my feelings about this book. I liked it. It was really enjoyable and it was a really solid book. Though, there were things I did not like. It’s not that they fell flat, were underdeveloped, or anything that I can easily put into words. Some things just weren’t fully there for me.
The writing is incredibly poetic. I wasn’t expecting that, so I think that threw me off for a bit. Though, it was done very, very well. I enjoyed it a lot. Though, I felt like it wasn’t consistent throughout. There were things that were talked about in metaphors, with writing that flowed however it wanted to. And then there were things that were talked about starkly and where exactly as they seemed. It threw me off a bit and there were times where it left me wanting. I just wanted to get to the heart of a certain character or just fully understand a piece of worldbuilding, but the writing kind of danced around it.
A lot of things in this book were done really well, but I felt like some things were kind of misplaced. There were twists that happened that I never would have guessed, but I wasn’t shocked when they were revealed. I felt like some of them happened too early, or weren’t placed the right way. There wasn’t enough tension or mystery around them, so they sort of just felt like something happening. They were good plot points, but I personally would have liked if they were executed differently.
I also would have liked to see a lot more out a lot of the aspects in this book. I would have liked to see more of Celia and Anya’s friendship. I actually thought it was going to have both Celia and Anya’s POV, but it was actually just Celia. I would have liked to see their relationship with the Mob grow and blossom more. I would have liked to delve in the world in a slower, deeper way. I guess I think some things could have been fleshed out in a more intricate way. Some things just felt fast, and I ended up being confused here and there (though that could just be me). I didn’t get a full emotional hold.
Despite these things, I didn’t hate this book haha. I know I’m making it seem that way, but there were a lot of things I really liked!
Celia was absolutely fantastic. I loved her character. She’s angry, she’s determined, and she just wants to live freely. She calls brain her bees, which is honestly one of the best ways I’ve heard thinking described. She was a sharp wit and is just really brilliant. She also feels the same way about gender that I do! Which was really, really awesome to see. She swings between female and non-binary and she and they pronouns.
The queerness of this book was also something I really, really loved. There are casual non-binary characters. Casual use of they/them pronouns. It’s done in a fantasy way, but with such care. There is also so many queer characters and relationships and it was honestly just really great to see.
The Mob was also really great. I loved their shows and I loved their family. They were so interesting.
I also really liked the ink and the tattoos. They were just as fascinating as the synopsis makes them seem. They’re part of such a cruel world. A world where change needs to happen, but nobody sees that but the people its harming. And nobody wants to listen to the people its harming.
Overall, this was a really interesting book and I did enjoy reading it. Some things didn’t quite work for me, but it was still good. The ending is very subtle in it’s delivery, but that’s what makes the punch it packs so effective. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next!
Thank you for reading!