Ink Blood Sister Scribe
Author: Emma Törzs
Published: May 30th, 2023 (William Morrow)
Thank you to the publisher, HCC Frenzy, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements – books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.
All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries…
In the great tradition of Ninth House, The Magicians, and Practical Magic, this is a suspenseful and richly atmospheric novel that draws readers into a vast world filled with mystery and magic, romance, and intrigue – and marks the debut of an extraordinary new voice in speculative fiction.
Esther and Joanna have always known that their family’s collection of books is extremely rare and valuable and has been guarded by several generations, for these are magical books that allow the person who reads them to cast certain spells. But this magic comes at a cost, and the sisters have not seen each other in many years. Esther fled home, never staying too long in one place to escape the fate that befell her mother and Joanna lives an isolated life in their family home, caring for and guarding the books. But when their father dies suddenly after reading a book that Joanna is certain is not part of their collection, it’s up to the sisters to figure out what happened and protect both themselves and their family’s prized books. Esther is being hunted by a mysterious foe and as she begins to seek answers, she realizes that there is more to the world of magic than her father ever told her – more possibilities to what magic can do, but also more dangers and secrets than she ever imagined.
💭 Initial Thoughts: Libraries full of magical books and spells was literally the only thing I needed to hear to add this to my TBR. That the early reviews for this were already pretty favourable was a bonus. The premise for this book also reminded me vaguely of Sorcery of Thorns with the magical library full of secrets, one of my favorite reads, so I was excited to pick this up.
🌎 Plot, World building & Atmosphere: Ink Blood Sister Scribe had a really unique premise – many families across the world with the gift of magic in their bloodlines collect handmade books that allows them to cast spells. But these books can only be used a certain number of times, and it takes a Scribe to write a new one – and Scribes are incredibly rare, not to mention that they have to write the book in their own blood, an effort that has often killed them. Joanna and Esther come from one such family that owns a sizeable collection, but where Joanna has the ability to hear and use these books, Esther is completely unaffected by magic of any kind.
This book is technically urban fantasy, but seeing as most of the story takes place in the characters’ homes which were so steeped in magic, it didn’t have the feel of the genre – a good thing for me at any rate because I always have trouble with stories that reference magic and modern technology in the same line, it makes it hard for me to get into the mood of a fantasy novel.
Honestly though, in terms of plot and world building, this book had so much more potential than was used. Even once the story started moving faster, I kept checking Goodreads to make sure it was a standalone, because the depth of the concepts as well as the leisurely pace was characteristic of what I usually see in the first book of a series. But this was actually a standalone, and pacing aside, I’m quite impressed with the amount of detail the author has managed to go into in a single book.
✍🏻 Writing & Narration: The way this book started, without too many explanations, made it a little confusing for me. Ink Blood Sister Scribe definitely took its own sweet time to actually get things moving, focusing more on the characters lives at that moment in time before actually providing enough plot context to understand what was going on and figure out how the different POV characters were going to be connected.
This made this book kind of a difficult read initially, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through 400+ pages of this. While it did take quite some time for the narrative to stop dragging, close to 35% of the book, the pacing did eventually pick up and I fairly flew through the rest of it, much to my surprise. It was an engaging read throughout and even in the parts where the story dragged, there was enough going on to hold the reader’s attention and curiosity, and the mounting tension in the plot kept me turning the pages.
👥 Characters: Characters wise, I felt that Esther was the best in terms of character development and I found it easiest to follow the plot as well through her arc. Joanna, to a lesser extent, though I found it very odd that neither sister thought to question anything that their father told them in all those years and simply agreed – Joanna to watching over the books, practically never leaving the house and Esther to living a life always on the move, far from her family.
Nicholas and Collins added to the story mostly in terms of plot and bringing all the pieces together, but I don’t feel like I really got to know either character, despite Nicholas having a POV. Nicholas was also not mentioned in the synopsis, so when his character was introduced in his first POV chapter, I found it rather confusing to try to figure out who he was. The romance felt a little out of the blue for me and wasn’t really necessary in my opinion, especially as it was introduced pretty late into the book.
As for the villain, I thought it was a masterful twist from the author. It was evident who was the villain much earlier than I expected, but it was the extent of how far they were willing to go that was truly shocking and this reveal was excellently done.
🎬 Ending: While a bit rushed, all the pieces came together in a logical manner and I did like the note the last chapter ended on. It does leave room for anther story and I’m really curious as to what might happen in one.
❓ Final Thoughts & Recommendation: I do wish that this book was either longer or perhaps a duology, because as I mentioned, the way the plot was unfolding felt to me throughout, as indicative of a sequel or two. But overall, this was a great read and I enjoyed the unique magic system and for a standalone, impressively layered plot. I’d be interested to see if there will be a spin off of some sort for this book, if only to explore the fascinating world some more, as well as the potential consequences of the ending, but all in all, a satisfying read and one I would definitely recommend for fantasy fans this summer!
Ink Blood Sister Scribe releases on May 30th, 2023.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.
I posted my review for this, today, as well! I think I enjoyed it much more than you did. I’m sorry some of the characters felt surface. I really liked the different points of view and how they built each cahracter’s experience with magic. But, I do understand your points. Great review!
We posted our reviews on the same day lol!!!! This is a great review. I do think I enjoyed it more but I understand your points. I got more out of each character, I think.
Wow one posted and deleted and came back. When it deleted i rewrote a second post. Sorry about that!
Thanks for your thorough review. The book sounds like a good read to me, even though fantasy is not my favorite genre. Thanks for sharing!
Love the premise. And great review as always, Raji! Thanks for sharing!
The premise of this books sounds really interesting, I’m fascinated by the scribes and what they do. Your reviews are always so useful and informative; thanks for this one, I may have to get the book!
This definitely sounds promising! Great review!
To be honest, the fantasy genre is not really my cuppa tea. But reading your review of this book makes me intrigued to read the whole story. I’m going to add this book to my TBR. Thank you for sharing.
I haven’t heard of this before. But you have written such a great review. It is great you received this before the release date. Thank you for sharing your experience. I need to get into reading more.
Lauren – bournemouthgirl