Ink & Sigil #1, Iron Druid Chronicles Spin Off
I love fantasy, but I discovered I don’t read a lot of fantasy by cis white dudes. Because most of fantasy is written by them, I often go looking for stories by women, POC, or LGBTQIA+ authors. But occasionally, a description will nab me, or a setting will pull me in, and I find myself going outside of my usual reading habits to read fantasy from the men’s club.
From the Dust Jacket:
Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. he is blessed with an extraordinary white mustache, 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 Al’s voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for him, so he can communicate only through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all 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 the actual detectives who are wondering why death always seems to follow him. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take Al through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.
I didn’t really know what I was getting into with Ink & Sigil. I had never read Kevin’s books before and didn’t know anything about his Iron Druid world, but that didn’t really matter – he does a really got job of introducing the world by rooting it in the “real” world in Scotland.
The Scotland connection was what originally made me want to read, but I kept reading for the lovely accents, witty dialogue, and empathetic characters. We are introduced to Al, a magician/wizard mashup of sorts, as he is discovering that his apprentice has died under mysterious circumstances (never trust a raisin scone) and finds himself saddled with a precocious and mischievous hobgoblin ward that said apprentice had been illegally trafficking.
While fending off assassins (the Fae queen wants the hobgoblin dead with a capital D), Al and Buck (said hobgoblin) set about solving the mystery of Al’s curses, and Gordie’s illegal hobbies. My favorite character of the rag tag bunch is the manager of Al’s print shop, a former pit fighter, who never fails to deliver the perfectly timed one liner or jab, while still supporting her boss and putting up with his own activities of varying legality.
The world of the sigil agents isn’t limited to Scotland and it quickly becomes apparent that Al isn’t going to solve this mystery without the help of his fellows around the world. Their inclusion is well times and paced, Kevin knows how to keep a reader turning the pages while interjecting side stories and plots that enhance, rather than detract, from the main story line.
Ink & Sigil is an adventure full of fun characters, bloody good action scenes, and an appreciation for the distilleries, both scotch and gin, of Scotland. I’m excited to keep reading the series – it’s lighthearted enough to be a great book for both fantasy and mystery lovers alike!
Rating: 8 out of 10