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Mary Retta

Devotion and Friendship in Kim Smejkal’s Ink in the Blood

One night, a tattoo appeared around Celia Sand’s ankle while she was sleeping. Awoken by a strange combination of magic and pain, Celia rushed to tell her mothers what had happened. The women were ecstatic, and told Celia the good news: it was finally time for her to serve the Divine.

Ink in the Blood, the debut novel by Vancouver-based author Kim Smejkal, follows Celia Sand and her best friend Anya Burtoni, who are devotees of the magical religion of Profeta. Followers of Profeta, or inklings, are able to use their magic to tattoo other devotees with symbols that represent the will of the Divine, Profeta’s mystical higher power, and all worship together at the beautiful Profeta temple. Being an inkling is considered one of the highest honors a worshipper of Profeta can achieve, and at first the girls are delighted to pursue this calling. But after ten years of servitude, the girls find out a harrowing truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattoos strip followers of their freedom, and their beautiful temple is actually a torturous prison.

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Things in Jars Is a Deliciously Dark Take on Fantastical Victorian England

“As pale as a grave grub she’s an eyeful.”

So begins Things in Jars, the third novel by beloved Londoner and author Jess Kidd. Just like it’s first sentence, Things in Jars is unique, complex, yet undeniably beautiful. Kidd’s prose is so daring—using stunning imagery and unpredictable, rare language—that I often found myself pausing while reading, taking time to bask in the beauty of a metaphor or pausing to reflect on a rhetorical question. And, like just like the author’s textured prose, Kidd has built a story that is winding, beautiful, and complex.

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