Ink Blood Sister Scribe

Ink Blood Sister Scribe

by Emma Törzs

4 out of 5

Some books should never be opened.

Ink Blood Sister Scribe follows a family tasked with guarding a trove of magical but deadly books, and the shadowy organisation that will do anything to get them back...even murder.

Joanna Kalotay lives alone in the woods of Vermont, the sole protector of a collection of rare books; books that will allow someone to walk through walls or turn water into wine. Books of magic.

Her estranged older sister Esther moves between countries and jobs, constantly changing, never staying anywhere longer than a year, desperate to avoid the deadly magic that killed her mother. Currently working on a research base in Antarctica, she has found love and perhaps a sort of happiness.

But when she finds spots of blood on the mirrors in the research base, she knows someone is coming for her, and that Joanna and her collection are in danger.

If they are to survive, she and Joanna must unravel the secrets their parents kept hidden from them - secrets that span centuries and continents, and could cost them their lives...

Magic is real, and strictly controlled by the Library. Sisters, Joanna and Esther have lived difficult lives, but have remained secret from the Library - until now.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a standalone novel, and it is split (for the most part) amongst three narrators.
Joanna has been stuck alone in her family house, ever since her older sister fled without warning ten years ago; and their father was killed by magic. She is bound by a sense of duty to protect the collection of books her father died for, and continues to magically lock herself away from the rest of the world.

Esther has been running, ever since her father told her that she'd short-circuit the spell protecting the rest of the family. For ten years, she has moved constantly, never putting roots down. Until a job in Antarctica, and falling for Pearl, makes her break her rule. Surely she's safe at the edge of the world?

Nicholas is the nephew of the man who owns the Library, and he is a Scribe - the only one in the world who can write magical books. From a young age, he's happily worked for his uncle, knowing that Richard is keeping him safe from the people who kidnapped him and ruined his eye.
After another attempt on his life, Nicholas can only trust his bodyguard Collins.

I liked the magical system that was created, it seemed like a really original take. Magic and spells all originate in books, which can only be written by Scribes, with blood. As there is currently only one scribe, new magical books are very rare, and only by the grace (and a lotta money) of the Library.
Some people, like Joanna and her father, are able to sense magical books. Many families with magical connections have amassed a collection of old magical books.

Anyone can perform the spells, offering their blood to bring it to life. Anyone, except Esther, who has grown up feeling like the magical dud in her family.

Richard and his employee/partner Maram have spent years sourcing 'lost' magical books and bringing them into the safety of the Library.
Nicholas has an eye-opening evening that makes him realise that maybe Richard isn't as caring as he makes out, and sheds a completely different light on his life up until that point.

I enjoyed the plot, for the most part. It started off somewhat slow, the first half takes time to build the background of where each of them is living, and what their lives are like. Then it slowly starts to build suspicion and tension, and you get a good understanding of why they have to flee.
In the second half, Esther, Joanne, Nicholas and Collins come together, to help save each other from the long claws of the Library, and to try and uncover why their ally has sent them on this journey.
There was a decent sense of urgency in the second half, as the pace picked up, but... nothing really happened until the end. 
The Library has connections everywhere, but as soon as they hit the US, there's no further trouble... it felt a bit off. I mean, I know they made decisions that would make it easier to stay hidden, but there were no more henchmen at all.

The not-so-good.
As mentioned, the pacing was a bit off. Sometimes I felt that the story was slow-moving, with nothing interesting to keep my attention. At other times, it was fascinating and chocka, and I wondered how the author would fit everything into a single book.
The world-building and magical system that the author created was great, but I felt that it could have been explored further. There were tantalising little bits of history - like Isabel's family, or the group Collins used to be a part of. It's clear the author has a big vision of what's happened in their world, and it was disappointing we didn't get to see more.

I thought that Cecily telling Isabel's story at the end was kinda wedged in awkwardly. It was enlightening, and helped to build Isabel as something more than a two-dimensional martyr or mystery figure.

I thought that our main characters came over a little immature. Nicholas and Joanna are about twenty-four, and they have both lived very isolated lives, so I guess I can understand that.
Esther, though, is about twenty-eight years old, and has lived a very hard life where she's had to rely on herself from a relatively young age. That didn't always come across right. Also, I found it weird that Pearl, the love of her life, that got attacked by one of the Library's henchmen, is hardly mentioned in the second half.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more from this author.


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